February 19, 2024

ANT Bicycles Tonga: The first bicycle rental shop in the Kingdom

Bicycle Tonga

By Alipate Pareti

Visitors to Tonga have a new way of exploring Tongatapu thanks to Alamoni and Taniela Takeifanga. They are the proud owners of ANT Bicycles Tonga, the first family-owned bicycle rental business in the heart of Nuku’alofa.

“Since we started in January [2023] we’ve met so many people from around the world. Our favorite part of our business is seeing happy customers. We love seeing them enjoy their time in the Kingdom,” says Alamoni.

“We love talking with customers before they set out. We show them all the local spots to get great food and beverages and the best picnic spots that are not featured in the travel blogs and websites. Hence our slogan, ‘Explore Tonga Your Way,” she continues.

“It’s always satisfying to see them being ecstatic about our local recommendations. We just want to help them experience things in Tonga that’s truly authentic”, she added.

When Tonga’s borders reopened after Covid, their target market was cruise ships travellers.

Bicycle Tonga

“But as the year progressed, we were surprised to find that most of our customers were the backpackers,” Alamoni reveals. “Today about 90% of our customers are backpackers.”

She says their location near affordable accommodation helps.

“We acknowledge them for sending customers our way. Right now, our best customers are backpackers. They are budget travelers and are easy to work with.”

ANT Bicycles Tonga offers discounts for groups of three or more. Alamoni says their big groups tend to be locals, who come for exercise. The package price for locals and tourists is the same.

 “A full package includes a helmet, a lock and a high visibility vest. And for all of that a full day [8 hours] is 30 Pa’anga ($12.77 US dollars) and half a day [four hours] 20 Pa’anga ($8.51 US dollars),” Alamoni says.

The couple ensure safety measures are followed each time before customers ride out, particularly for cruise ship passengers, who have very limited time ashore.

Taniela adds, “It’s always hot in Tonga. So, we always recommend to our customers to go out early in the mornings (usually before sunrise) and late in the afternoons when the heat is bearable. And always remember to take a bottle of water.”

Their top recommendation to visitors; riding along Nuku’alofa’s scenic coast.

“The sunrise and sunset spots are really pretty along that way. Even our local customers often return to thank us because they didn’t know about those spots,” says Taniela.

Bicycle Tonga

Biking business

Alamoni and Taniela run the business alongside other jobs. Alamoni works as a human resources manager for the Tonga Tourism Authority while Taniela works with the Tonga Meteorology Office.

ANT Bicycles Tonga does not operate on set hours, instead opening when it has bookings. This includes Sundays, when there is a demand.

Sundays are usually the best day to explore anything in Tonga because there’s no crowd and significantly less traffic,” Taniela adds.

Alamoni says, “We set our schedule around our customers because we both have full-time jobs. We also have a little baby to care for.

“My brother Aisea is always here helping us serve our customers and sometimes with babysitting. He is a great part of our family business.”

At the moment, the business’ biggest challenge is the proper maintenance of the company’s 19 bicycles.

Taniela says, “There’s not a lot of bicycle shops in Tonga.  This makes it really hard to get spare parts and other accessories for our mountain bikes. We can only get spare tires but not the full bicycles’ spare parts. We had to search online or asked our relatives who travel overseas to get us a few spare parts or the equipment we need.”

Taniela is always exploring ways to improve their business: “To help me learn more about bicycles, I’ve been doing a lot of research on YouTube which has been a good resource for me.  I’ve also been to Vanuatu just recently and I saw people riding e-bicycles there. Maybe the way forward for us would be getting e-bicycles to step up our business.”

Bicycle Tonga

The tourism industry in Tonga is still recovering from Covid and the Hunga Tonga–Hunga Haʻapai underwater volcanic eruption in 2022.

Alamoni says: “It’s crucial for our tourism industry to be innovative and try to create more reasons for people to want to visit our island home. Tonga is really popular for the whale watching season but after the whales go, there’s nothing left to do.

“In our own way, we are trying to contribute towards that and hope that our customers fall in love with Tonga a little bit more and would want to come again. That’s one of our “why’s” here at ANT Bicycles; we are grateful that we can do what we are doing; learning and having fun while we are at it.”

Advice for other Pacific entrepreneurs

  • Start small and grow. “We did not take out a loan. We decided to use some of our personal savings to start up our business. It’s an investment and learning process for us.”
  • Listen to each other and work together as a team. “We nearly bought 100 bicycles in the beginning but upon further discussions and planning together we decided to start with 19 bicycles. That was the right move for us.”
  • It’s a learning process so always be humble to learn new ideas. “We were surprised about the frequent number of backpackers coming in, especially, when things were not so good for us with the cruise ships. We did not expect that to happen but we are grateful and catered for our backpacker customers.”
  • Acknowledge other business owners and learn from them too. “We appreciate our neighbors (backpacking accommodation). They direct customers to us and we also direct customers to them. We help each other.”

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