I am writing to you today with regard to making more public that the Tongan Government and people lose hundreds of thousands of dollars each whale watch season.
I recently attended a meeting in Vava'u with the Hon. Prime Minister and the Minister of Commerce, Tourism and Labour. It was a good meeting however, a major concern was raised and I feel that this needs
to be made more public.
Two points were raised in this meeting:
1. The number of Whale Watch Licenses being issued for Vava'u. The MCTL of Vava'u proudly announced that these license fees provide approximately TOP90K in revenue to the Government. However what they are doing is polluting the waters with too many boats! There are 18 operators in Vava'u - which means there is a potential for 36 WW boats in the water for a 12-week period! That's disgusting! There is a potential for a serious accident and the ongoing harassment of the whales by that many boats is extremely dangerous. That is too many licenses!
2. As I mentioned above the MCTL provides very little revenue to the Government through licenses and is indirectly destroying the whale watch tourism industry. What people of Tonga may not know is there are tour companies that come to Tonga, especially Vava'u and Ha'apai that earn in excess of $400,000 Australian dollars for a 12 week period and the Tongan Government sees nothing!
How these companies do this - it's very simple. All their customers pay for their trips into overseas bank accounts, they bring in their own boats, MCTL issue's them a licence and off they go. These people do not pay income tax in Tonga, they do not pay CT tax in Tonga. They take their money, use our whales and then leave!
Some companies have been doing this for over 15 years! Can you imagine how much money that equates to in lost revenue for the Government!
What should happen is this - if you want to run a Whale Watch/Swim business in Tonga - then you Must live in Tonga and run the company from here and not just for the 12 week period, as some other operators do - but you Must live here for a minimum of 10 months. No outside companies can bring in their own boats - if they want to - then Tax them a lot of money! That is how Government's earn proper revenue!
These people are cashing in on a natural resource of Tonga!
I hope you publish this letter - the people need to know and the Government needs to stop this practice immediately!