Tonga handicrafts showcased at USA Sevens

Tonga and her handicrafts were showcased  for the first time ever at a booth during the USA Sevens Tournament in Las Vegas, USA from 13-15 February, 2015 in efforts to promote Tongan handicrafts and find new markets.

Marketing traditional items in a non-traditional market is a big step.

“I saw the potential of this from previous years and thought it should be tried. We included it in our workplan. The USA Sevens was great because you had all these people happy to watch a game, many of them Pacific Islanders who walk by and see a booth with authentic Tongan products. It really instils pride and is good promotion for Tonga as a country and not just handicrafts,” says Monalisa Palu, National Coordinator of the Tonga Handicrafts and Cultural Tourism Support Programme (HCTSP).

It is understood that normally competing teams have booths given to them for promotions at games. Although Tonga did not have a team in the USA Sevens, many Tongans flew and drove to Las Vegas to enjoy the games which Fiji won.

“People are wary of new ideas but we are thankful to our friends and relatives who supported this pioneer move. Others will try it later maybe but the first step is important and it was successful,” says Monalisa Palu.

The USA Sevens attracts about 70,000 spectators from different countries.

“Many of these people know of the Pacific because of their rugby prowess and having our products there is important. This is my first time to go and exhibit like this and I have learnt a lot,” says Setefano Tupou, a carver with networks in Hawaii.

This was the first time for Setefano Tupou and Monalisa Palu to showcase at the USA Sevens. “New Zealand and Australia are what we know predominantly as our markets but the US is massive and the potential for promotion of our products there can strengthen cultural ties, promote Tonga as a destination and possibly establish new trade opportunities,” says Monalisa.

“We cannot know the opportunities and challenges unless we try and this was the first time. People think of rugby games and the competition. I saw an arena full of people who know a little of the Pacific and could know more. It was basically self-funded by participants with some assistance from HCTSP but the lessons learnt can be shared widely for the benefit of our people.”

The Tonga Handicrafts and Cultural Tourism Support Programme aims to Enhance the Sustainable Livelihood Opportunities for Handicrafts and Cultural Tourism Experience providers.

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