Sunday, January 10, 2010

Ha'apai Tourism

My big project recently has been the website I created for the Tourism Bureau here in Ha'apai. They have never had their own website before, there is no place to go online that lists all the accommodations and activities in one place. So this is a big step. There is a main website for tourism in Tonga, but it mostly focuses on the main island of Tongatapu, and the tourist destination of the Vava'u islands north of us. I would have created the website in Dreamweaver with a better design, but my main goal has been to make sure it's sustainable and that my counterpart can edit and update current information. So we used google blogger and set up a navigation bar at the top, and I've taught him how to use it. It's been amazing so far, he's been updating and publishing information on his own now about activities, history, culture, and more (we still need to work on editing some of the English though). It's a good feeling to be in a place where you can make this kind of an impact with the Internet and technology. And the tourism office was very surprised that you can make websites for free now. Tourism here is a difficult thing sometimes, but a huge boost on the economy. I think it's the biggest in Tonga after remittances from overseas. On such a small island here with so few operators and guest houses there are small town politics. And Tonga is known as the Friendly Islands, but they aren't good with customer service and hospitality. The people are amazing if you come as their guest, but it's a different story if you're a tourist. Ha'apai really does have a lot to offer tourists though - pristine coral reefs with lots of fish, swimming with whales, important historical sites, long sandy beaches, etc. You just can't expect five-star hotels, air conditioning, or gourmet meals.

So check out our Ha'apai tourism website!

Brett and I head to Nuku'alofa on the main island tomorrow for some mid-service training with Peace Corps. We haven't left Ha'apai now since the beginning of August. We have done a lot of smaller trips though around our islands here, just this last weekend a bunch of us camped out on the liku "wild" side of our island by some cool rock formations.

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