15 October 2012

Training, Trust and TBEC

TBEC's services are bilingually English and Tongan
When the training centre started, it was met with skepticism. "Will it really help to send my staff to these trainings? It might reflect badly on my ability as a manager if they need it." "Isn't that the centre that helps palangi (foreign) businesses?" people asked. "I'm doing alright right now. I don't want to risk meddling with some new idea," others said. At the time, I was working at Tonga Development Bank, and heard about it through the grapevine. The hope people had, like almost all hope for new projects in Tonga, was cautious. This was the humble beginning of TBEC, or Tonga Business Enterprise Centre.

07 October 2012

The True South Pacific

Clear water and sailing in Vava'u
The tourism industry in Tonga has always seemed to me like a two headed dog with each head eying warily and distrustfully at the other. You can take one look around downtown and see that Tonga is blissfully not a tourist trap - and that's why most tourists come here. Tourism numbers are generally low, but out of the major economic sectors, agriculture, fishing, manufacturing, and a few others, tourism is the only one showing a bit of growth as potential to support small businesses and families all around Tonga. On the other hand, it's viewed by some as a culture-eroder and as a blow to personal pride to work in customer service.

In my job, one of the major areas I look after is NZ's support to tourism in Tonga; a large and complex programme that is fraught with differences of opinion, politics, and barriers at every level - because in many ways, both heads of the beast have a good point.
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