Survivor loss hurts Tonga

Photo / Whale Watch Vava'u
Photo / Whale Watch Vava'u

Tonga is reeling at news Survivor will not be filmed on its shores.

The US reality show was expected to inject a much-needed US$6 million ($8.1 million) into the kingdom's flagging economy when it started filming next month.

There had been much excitement around the TV plans, but in a letter to the Prime Minister, Lord Tu'ivakano, Survivor co-producer Leisa Francis said they had not been able to secure accommodation and other services needed.

Tonga's newly installed director of tourism, Sakopo Lolohea, said the withdrawal was a tragedy for his country.

"This was an incredible opportunity, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to showcase our country to the world and finally put us on the map," Mr Lolohea said.

Survivor had planned to film for several months in Tonga's picturesque north island group, Vava'u.

The Government had offered tax incentives and concessions to encourage the producers, and had even passed legislation to meet their special requirements.

However, the makers had difficulty getting co-operation from local operators when it came to booking the 25,000 room nights needed.

"This is not a problem with Survivor, it's a problem with our own people not understanding the huge national benefit of making this happen," Mr Lolohea said. "It shows us we've got work to do, that's for sure."

He believed producers would shift the show to Fiji.


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