Revitalizing Tonga’s Vava’u International Airport’s runway will mean greater links with long-haul flights from around the world.

The soon-to-be extended runway will be able to take direct flights from the U.S., China, Australia, Japan and as far away as the United Arab Emirates, the prime minister’s office said in a press release.

The newly announced project would help boost the tourism industry, air freight capacity, employment and the country’s renewable energy sector.

Despite being a tourism hotspot, Vava’u, on a group of islands to the north of Tonga’s capital Nuku’alofa, only has a seasonal, international link with Fiji’s Nadi airport.

Vava’u International Airport currently only takes international flights from Nadi, Fiji, on a seasonal basis. Wikimedia Commons

The airport would include an 86,000-square-foot terminal powered by a wind and solar energy plant. Vava’u and its popluation of 13,600 currently rely upon imported diesel for 90% of its energy.

The government said it planned to hire locals to fill 80% of the construction roles associated with the project, which will be contracted to the British firm Raw Mana.

The prime minister’s office said it would also lead to further business development by opening new import and export routes.

Current exports from Vava’u are limited to less perishable goods, such as vanilla, squash and yams, but the upgraded airport could change everything, Raw Mana CEO Havea L. Gatti said in a statement.

“The direct flights would make it possible to land fish caught in Tongan waters and other fresh local produce on the tables of New Zealand restaurants the next day,” said Gatti.

It could also attract foreign investment and other businesses, he said.

“We want to offer a premium experience for visitors which is in line with the positioning of other island destinations such as the Maldives,” added Gatti.

Funding has not yet been identified, but the project will undergo a feasibility study in November and is expected to be completed in 2024.

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