When it comes to Pacific destinations, Tonga is a long way down the consideration list and has smaller visitor numbers than Fiji, Samoa, Rarotonga and Vanuatu, primarily because, unlike those countries, it has never really invested in promoting itself. But for the first time in its history, the Kingdom has taken to TV with a trans-Tasman campaign that aims to build on the 2012 launch of ‘the True South Pacific’ brand and show what its 176 islands can offer visitors.
The 2013 campaign by bcg2 and the Kingdom of Tonga’s Ministry of Commerce, Tourism and Labour features a series of TVCs that were shot by by Play Studio's Marcus Ringrose and Peter Clews’, with Duncan Cole and bcg2's chief executive and executive creative director James Blackwood behind the camera. It also includes outdoor creative in New Zealand and global online activity.
Running in May and June, the campaign aims to raise awareness of Tonga, which, at two hours 45 minutes away, is the closest Pacific destination to New Zealand and is only a four hour direct flight from Australia, to get the destination onto shortlists—and educate the trade—as Kiwis and Aussies make decisions about their winter holidays.
"Tourism is our government’s top priority for economic development and the potential here is vast," says Tonga’s Minister for Commerce, Tourism and Labour, Hon Dr Viliami Latu. "But market research has shown awareness of Tonga as a holiday destination is relatively low. So investing in this profile-building campaign is an essential part of Tongan government plans to boost tourism growth … We have focused on improving the quality of the visitor experience, and now have an accommodation grading scheme, Tonga Mark, to give assurance to visitors and to travel agents who sell Tonga holidays. This year we will extend the grading scheme into transport, taxis and attractions."
Since winning the pitch two years ago, bcg2 has worked with the Tongan government on brand identity and tourism development in the Kingdom with the support of the New Zealand Aid Programme and bcg2's planning director Abe Dew says the general sentiment is that the whole country needs to get behind this push.
He says tourism has never been a priority for Tonga (unlike some of the other island nations, it wasn't colonised). But as a result, it's largely unspoilt.
"The campaign is designed to appeal to travellers, rather than tourists who want to eat from buffets and sit in banana loungers at a resort," he says.
Blackwood says he's fallen in love with Tonga and says it's exciting to be working with the Tongan government in implementing a sustainable tourism infrastructure for the long term.
"Culturally it truly is unique and there’s a warmth of welcome and sense of discovery in some of Tonga’s unspoilt outer islands that a lot of holiday destinations claim, but very few can deliver on."
Elsewhere in the Pacific, Colenso BBDO won the global pitch for Tourism Fiji last year and, after a fairly long gestation period, it's thought the launch of a new campaign is imminent.