“Foki ki ‘Api” – Nurturing our understanding of ‘home’ when visiting friends and relatives (VFR) - the case of Leimātu‘a, Vava‘u, Tonga
Talakai-'Alatini, Sio Kihe La'a
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International migration for people in the Pacific has become a cultural and economic voyage in which identities are challenged and questioned. With the evolution of transport technology, the modern era has provided a more efficient form of transport. This study contributes to the theorising of relationships between Pacific migrants and ‘home’ in ways other than through remittances. Exploring the unique role of Visiting Friends and Relatives (VFR) and the cultural aspects associated with such travel, is a component that is often neglected or ignored in tourism literature. This study examines what tauhi vā (to take care of socio-spatial relationships between kin and kin like members) might mean from the perspective of the Tongan diaspora and how VFR tourism may contribute to maintaining cultural relations between home and Tongans living overseas. It also seeks to investigate the experiences of Tongan migrants returning to Tonga to attend a cultural village event. The participants in this research attended a week long village event “foki ki ‘api” (returning home). Using the framework of Kakala and Talanoa as a method to capture and give privilege to the voices of the returning migrants, VFR travel as a sub sector is useful for the strengthening of cultural and family relationships. It is also useful in validating the understanding of motivational factors behind the purpose of travel which could contribute to the sustainability of tourism in Tonga. The strengthening of cultural and family relations allows people from the home to renew, build and reconnect with their families overseas; the elusive space that connects one person to another. Furthermore, the Tongan culture and way of living plays a vital role in maintaining the ties and relations as seen in tauhi vā.