Analysis: How Can Tonga Exploit Rio Olympics Exposure?

Nuku‘alofa − Sensational Pita Taufatofua became the best Tongan ambassador at the Rio Olympics than as an athlete.

This is more than the Tonga Ministry of Tourism could have bargained for; but will they know how to capitalize on Taufatofua’s fame?

Carrying the Tongan flag shirtless wearing only a shiny coconut-oily skin, the Tongan heavyweight taekwondo fighter scored a double knockout punch of all flag carriers in both the the opening and closing ceremonies. Taufatofua became an instant celebrity, although he was not so lucky on the taekwondo mat.

He further broadcasted Tonga on TV to millions of viewers worldwide topping any slick advertisements the Tonga Ministry of Tourism could have dreamed of. Rio spectators were chanting “Tonga!” “Tonga!” “Tonga!” And everyone was asking, “Where is Tonga?”

Will this translate to floods of tourists coming to Tonga in the near future? That is an instant affirmative. And while the Olympic Games are still on everyone’s minds, the Tonga Tourism Authority must act fast before the Rio Games faded into the sunset of their memories. And Tonga better have enough hotel accommodations ready; unfortunately, there’s a lack of good hotels in Tonga presently. But beachfront coconut-fonts huts could be built rather quickly.

What Tonga Tourism Authority Must Do Quickly

This is when the Tongan Government should be spending the $250,000 advertorial campaign that they spent on new Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pōhiva’s good looks last year. After hiring Forbes Magazine to do an advertorial spread on the new Prime Minister in 2015, the wishful-thinking scheme turned into an embarrassing scandal for the Government.

Well, but the lack of good internationally rated hotels is a little bit of worry. That’s fine…there are enough coconut leaves to help quickly erect South Seas bungalows on the beaches. And they could quickly be added to the few real world-class resorts offshore the main island of Tongatapu that are now available. Further out in the Ha‘apai Group and Vava‘u Group, there are some good beach resorts for the adventurous visitors.

But back on the main island of Tongatapu, the resorts are not built for the parachute tourists. Like many tropical tourist destinations, where man-made structures are quickly succumbed to vegetation overgrowth, Post Rio Olympics tourists must bring along kayaks, snorkeling gear, and a tent. Those will be most appropriate.

Quick Tongan statistics for Post Rio Olympics tourists: Tonga’s Population, 105,000. Economics: $4,000 annual earning per person, and 24% lives under poverty level. Climate: Very pleasant spring time. Activities: Great whale watching season begins; clear blue-water swimming. Sunday activities: Go to church.  


(Photography and writing by Sione A. Mokofisi. He is a syndicated journalist living in Tonga, but his opinions do not reflect this Website’s editorial policy. He’s also editor of Tonga’s bi-lingual Niuvākai: Nuku‘alofa Journal, and the Director of English, Journalism & Business Management at Tonga International Academy. He holds a MBA from the University of Phoenix; BS from BYU-Hawaii. E-mail:    



Sione Mokofisi