Characteristics for Development of Whale-Watching Industries
On the social front, it is evident that although the community in the Vava’u area comprises of only 16,000 people, it has been on the forefront in whale conservation efforts and demonstrates a friendly nature to tourists. Additionally, the community has been effective in using promotional material involving the humpback whales to put Tonga on the world map.
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On the economic front, it is clear that tourism is the economic mainstay of the Vava’u area due to the fragile nature of other economic activities mainly in the manufacturing, agricultural, forestry and service sectors, hence making the area a fertile breeding ground for the development of modern whale-watching industries.
Concerning the natural environment, the Vava’u Island group in the Kingdom of Tonga is not only located in a tropical climate with warm, sheltered waters but also prides itself for hosting one of the whale species most popular for tourism. The high-quality marine environments in the area ensure the availability of humpback whales, which often visit the area for mating, birthing, and raising young calves.
Non-Economic Impacts of Whales and Whale-Watching
As demonstrated by the author of the article, tourism activities occasion both economic and non-economic impacts in the destination area or country. In the context of the Island of Tonga, whales and whale-watching activities are likely to occasion difficulties in hosting large numbers of tourists, environmental pollution and degradation, conflict between operators, resentment in the local community fuelled by increasingly large numbers of tourists, and internalization of vices such as prostitution and gambling among the local people.
Other non-economic impacts of whales and whale-watching activities likely to affect the Island of Tonga include inflationary pressure in the local economy, loss of local control on how local resources are managed and distributed, as well as environmental degradation due to the establishment of numerous whale-watching businesses in the area.
However, a positive non-economic impact for the Island concerns the change of attitudes and value systems among the local community, especially in terms of valuing and conserving the humpback whales as a critical resource for social and economic development of the Kingdom.
Factors influencing Potential Future Growth of Whale Watching
Some of the factors that will guarantee the future growth of whale-watching industry in Vava’u Island group, as demonstrated by the author, include (1) developing adequate transportation, accommodation, and other elements of the tourism infrastructure, (2) attaining long-term political stability not only in the Island of Tonga but also in South Pacific region, (3) establishing convenient and reliable airline connections to boost tourists’ arrivals, (4) dealing with unsustainable whale hunting practices, (4) establishing proper management practices for whale-watching activities, (5) dealing with negative social, economic and environmental impacts associated with tourism, (6) maintaining a stringent code of practice for whale-watching operators to minimise negative impacts associated with competition, and (7) establishing adequate conservation initiatives for the humpback whales to maintain their health and value.
It is important to note that several factors discussed in the article, including degradation of the natural environment, non-involvement of the local community and proliferation of unsustainable hunting practices may actually hamper the growth of the whale-watching industry in the future if immediate corrective measures are not taken. Overall, it can be suggested that the sustainability efforts undertaken to guarantee the expansion of the whale-watching industry in the Island of Tonga are bearing fruits.