Vava’u International Airport in Tonga is set to witness an overhaul under a $123.3m (NZ$172m) development plan.

This project will replace the airport’s existing building with a new proposed new 8,000m² terminal and a cargo facility.

The extended 2,700m runway will facilitate landing for large aircraft at the airport.

Upon completion, the airport will become the country’s largest international airport and is expected to attract more tourists and improve trade with neighbouring nations such as Australia and New Zealand.

Australia is said to be Tonga’s second-largest tourism market and also a key export market for the country, with trade carried out between the two nations valued at $15.7m (A$21m) annually.

Said to be Tonga’s largest tourism market, New Zealand accounts for 42% of visitors. The nations carry out $172m (NZD$240m) of trade between them per year.

The new airport infrastructure will be developed to meet all the requirements of a post-Covid-19 tourism market.

The project also entails the construction of a renewable energy plant to meet the power requirements of the airport.

To execute these projects, Raw Mana, a global construction and services group was referred to the Tongan Government.

Raw Mana CEO Havea L Gatti said: “While the capacity constraints of Vavaʻu’s cargo infrastructure limit the majority of agricultural exports to less perishable produce such as vanilla, squash and yams, when the new international airport comes online in 2024 it will open up a range of business opportunities for trading partners and will lead to the diversification of Tongan producers into more high value raw and processed exports.

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