Tonga Riots - media statement from House of Travel
House of Travel's retail director Brent Thomas said they had run reports and they had 30 people there and 31 booked to travel in the next seven days. Contacting customers in Tonga had proven extremely difficult with telecommunication issues in Nuku'alofa.
"We are currently attempting to contact customers in Tonga but sometimes the phone lines just won't connect. Those on the outer islands are easier to reach and had been unaffected."
Thomas said customers due to arrive in the next seven days were also being contacted.
"We are contacting customers to let them know of the riots and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFAT) travel warning to Tonga. Customers to date we have contacted were calm about the situation and generally adopting a wait-and-see approach as more information comes to light today."
Thomas said at this stage House of Travel was ensuring consultants were being provided with up to date information as it came to hand, to allow customers to make an informed decision.
"Everyone's appetite to risk is different and at this stage with MFAT saying there is "some risk" - it is up to each individual to make their own decision, based on their own set of circumstances."
Thomas said they had been notified by their insurance providers that people who had purchased their travel insurance policy prior to this morning there would be no change in cover under their House of Travel travel insurance policy but that they would not be covered for cancellation costs if they choose not to travel. For policies purchased from today there would be no cover for any claims arising some this situation.
Customers should contact their travel agent if they have any concerns and to keep an eye on the news for updates of the situation. They can also check the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade travel advisory at www.safetravel.govt.nz. House of Travel will regularly be updating customers as the situation changes, both in person to those affected and on its website www.houseoftravel.co.nz.
For local interest, here is the split of travellers by region:
REGION IN TONGA NOW TONGA IN NEXT 7 DAYS
Canterbury 9 7
Hamilton 4 2
Nelson 1 0
New Plymouth 0 2
Otago 1 3
Taranaki 1 0
Wellington 2 6
The House of Travel Group has forecasted turnover in 2006 in excess of $700m, it has 90 retail outlets (with specialist corporate and leisure travel outlets) throughout New Zealand, its own award winning aggregated booking website www.houseoftravel.co.nz and two wholesale companies (both inbound and outbound). It employs in excess of 1,100 people and is privately owned (by New Zealander Chris Paulsen) and operated since it was established in 1987.