Tonga, Samoa struggle with hosting upcoming major events

Apr 15, 2024 | Blog, News, Pacific, Samoa, Tonga

As Tonga and Samoa gear up to host two major inter-governmental events this year, the Pacific Islands Forum in late August and the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in October, both countries are grappling with a shortage of accommodation for attending leaders and delegates.

Tongan Prime Minister Siaosi ‘Ofakivahafolau Sovaleni

Tongan Prime Minister Siaosi ‘Ofakivahafolau Sovaleni

In Tonga, Prime Minister Hu’akavameiliku announced plans to address the accommodation shortfall by constructing 200 houses ahead of the Pacific Forum leaders meeting. With Tonga set to host the 53rd Pacific Forum, expectations are high with at least 1,000 participants anticipated for the event. However, Hu’akavameiliku acknowledged the challenges faced by Tonga’s accommodation sector, exacerbated by the impact of the 2022 volcanic eruption and tsunamis which ravaged coastal areas and resorts.

To meet the demand, a committee is diligently exploring various accommodation options including hotels, motels, and guesthouses, while also encouraging homeowners to register their properties for rent during the meeting. Additionally, the government plans to expedite the construction of 200 prefab and container houses, with a commitment to repurpose them for Tongans in need post-event.

Saoma Prime Minister Afioga Fiamē Naomi Mataʻafa

Samoa Prime Minister Afioga Fiamē Naomi Mataʻafa.

Meanwhile, in Samoa, Prime Minister Fiamē Naomi Mata’afa expressed confidence in her country’s ability to host CHOGM, with New Zealand providing essential support in terms of security advice and financial assistance. Despite the logistical challenges posed by Samoa’s smaller size, Mata’afa emphasized the nation’s stable democracy and organizational capabilities. With over 50 Commonwealth leaders expected to attend CHOGM along with their entourage and media representatives, New Zealand’s assistance, including funding for a cruise ship for accommodation, underscores the collaborative effort to ensure the success of the event.

As both Tonga and Samoa race against time to address their accommodation deficits, the upcoming inter-governmental gatherings highlight not only the significance of regional cooperation but also the logistical hurdles faced by smaller island nations in hosting large-scale events on short notice.

For the SIDS conference held in Samoa in 2014, the government faced a pressing need for adequate accommodation to host delegates from various Small Island Developing States (SIDS). In response to this challenge, a creative solution emerged as a cruise ship was requisitioned to serve as temporary lodging for conference attendees.