The Kingdom of Tonga—Love at first sight!
An investment love story, by Robert Bryce
The Introduction of characters
Tonga is a blissful and beautiful virgin darling in the South Pacific, sprawled over the sea with budding desire and yearning for investment. She is invitingly independent with a laudable constitution (English law). Captivating and loyal, she beckons you to take her for your own; but, like any of her stature, you can never really own her (land is leased). She was sculpted by the Gods. The template for this image in your mind lays over her perfectly. She shies hidden in the South Seas, but is right there in front of your “Googling” eyes by just entering a search for “Kingdom of Tonga.” Illusive is her nick name, a Siren some claim, but now she is tame.
Yes, fortunately, she has sisters. And, they all are just as beautiful.
Ha’apai, is her long legged sibling, described as “flat” and “total beach,” but a raging beauty she is. Stretching for over 60 miles, the Ha’apai Island Group is a long string of islands bridging the gap between the main island group of Tongatapu and her voluptuous sister, the Vava’u Island Group. Ha’apai, often called “Happy,” has some of the world’s finest virgin beaches. Ha’apai is right out of the magazines. A cover girl in a long silky white robe of powder like sand from head to toe with her lush jungle bare to the sun—this describes Ha’apai (oh my!). History was made here when Ha’apai’s beauty lured the crew of the Bounty to mutiny. Their choice was Ha’apai or Bligh, do or die. You would mutiny too, and when you experience Ha’apai—you will see why.
Vava’u is the favored sister with the most character. Vava’u has it all but not quite the “beach” like Ha’apai. Her hills and valleys, mountains and mounds are a visual delight. The map show’s Vava’u caressing her emerald isles, protecting them from the sea outside of her tight little group. Natural protection is something hard to find in the world of islands. Vava’u is surrounded from virtually all sides by a huge barrier reef and island string affording a softer ride on tranquil seas within. Vava’u’s disposition is serene. She makes no big waves and allows none either. Men in small boats glide over the gentle swells of Vava’u, moving from the outer regions to that famous “Port of Refuge,” the main harbour of Vava’u. Here is where all are supplied with the fruits of Vava’u, veggies, hardware and timber too.
Tongatapu is the experienced one. Having been violated, she bows her head in shame. Her offer is a promised change of her ways and better days. Beautiful as any, she took the penny and ran the show from a town called Nuku’alofa. Her capitol was inadvertently burned when some kids played with matches. This charred her heart. She needs to rebuild her self esteem and her capitol too. Commerce was her game and she had it all. Nearly everything bought and sold in the Kingdom had its roots in Tongatapu. Still does, but a new home for her house of commerce is in order. A new shopping center for her would do wonders. She has been described as “easy” now. She promises a very special return from any investment in her.
Down to business
These Island groups are becoming the new darlings of investment in the South Pacific. This is the new frontier. The Kingdom of Tonga today has the same potential for investment returns of that of early Tahiti, Fiji and even Vanuatu.
The land laws have been one of the deterrents to wide spread investment in the Kingdom; the last real Kingdom in the South Pacific. This too is changing with new long term leases, some up to 99 years possible now. The constitution of this Kingdom, key to Tonga’s history of stability, forbids “freehold,” and there are some good arguments for that, but terms up to 99-years are akin to a purchase these days. 99-year lease terms have been justification for significant investment elsewhere in the world.
The twin trade towers of NYC, made more famous on 9-11, were on such a 99-year lease, which brings to mind even more reasons to consider a South Pacific investment for the future. Where there may be no place in the inhabitable areas of the planet that are entirely secure from the potential threat of terrorism, there are some places that are certainly less prone. South of the equator is the new trend; now called south of the border with the new border being the equator. The Southern Hemisphere’s allure is quite different from that of what is now affectionately referred to as the “Northern Hemorrhagesphere” up there. Nature is calling all to her heart.
If Tonga isn’t the heart, it certainly is a vital organ of the South Seas. The island groups that make up Tonga are pristine and all that every tropical island brochure depicts. The Kingdom has 4 major island groups, of which three are the most popular but two of them really steal the show. The Ha’apai Island Group and the Vava’u Island Group are the epitome of what you think of when thinking South Pacific.
Vava’u is the crown jewel of the Kingdom. The island group has over 60 islands within the huge protective reef system, mostly uninhabited and each its own character. This is where the Warwick Hotel Group selected to locate and leased land. “Location” being most of what every business seems to be primarily concerned with when forecasting success; the next two considerations are “location and location.” Vava’u seems to have all three.
Fiji is just 450 miles from the shores of the Vava’u Island Group and most agree that Vava’u of Tonga has more to offer, starting with it being the birthing grounds for the Humpback whales that migrate here annually and ending with the white sand beaches and the sprinkle of emerald islands within this huge reef protected water wonderland.
The only missing piece for this puzzle to be complete would be a direct international air service to Vava’u. Today, July 2015, that puzzle piece is being put into place. A new International status for Vava’u’s airport has been approved and funding assured. This is the ship to come in that everyone in the tourism business has been waiting for. The suits are starting to show up on the beaches, leaving their ties on the dresser tops as serious investors are sending out their business minded scouts/beach combers. Timing is everything.
Ground floor opportunity, virgin opportunity, no way to go but up, a sleeper and a host of other clichés describe the opportunity in this island paradise in the middle of the South Pacific. These are the familiar words of a promoter, hawker pumping packaged investments all over the world. It seems the whole world has been packaged up for investment opportunities, Bahamas, Panama, Caymans, Costa Rica and more, some suspect and admittedly, some that couldn’t go bad no matter how much the promoters were taking for themselves.
Tonga is just the opposite in its self promotion.
Nothing in Tonga is packaged to speak of. Virtually every opportunity here is truly virgin, untouched by promoter’s hands and just laying there in the raw, ripe for the individual or group that see the opportunity lain bare before them. The only packaged offer so far is so reasonably priced that the developers can’t be making enough on it to hurt the economics. Here you can secure ocean front lots for less than $6,000 up front with payments of under $30 per month and more at www.southpacificrealestate.to
The Warwick Hotel Group is the first International chain, a 5 star operation to take the plunge, and the water is warm and lovely. Their investment will be the catalyst for a new airport, new facilities and opens the doors for an easier to follow the leader concept. All the important questions have been answered. The prices for property are still the bargain of the Pacific.
Perhaps for the first time in a long time, private individuals of modest means, families too, have been able to afford magnificent beachside property at prices comparable to that of a new car. Some of the “rich and famous” have made headlines purchasing a lot less for a lot more in other parts of the South Pacific. Maybe they are judging things by the price they pay. Those of us without financial advisors may be saving a fortune by digging through obscure articles like this one that whisper the news in the back while those in front are busy performing for each other, boasting of who paid the most for their sand. I revel in the idea of the savvy few having the same chance at the big time as any who have already made it. The Kingdom of Tonga is an opportunity ready to happen.
(Robert is Tonga’s original real estate and business broker. For more about the opportunities there, just ask Robert at [email protected] )