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Tuvalu Travel Guide

Laundry Drying, Funafuti
A wash hanging out to dry on Funafuti.

Tuvalu Economy


In 1996, an earth satellite station was installed on Funafuti courtesy of Australian aid, creating excess international telephone service capacity that could be leased to a Hong Kong company which resold the connections to the operators of sex chat lines.

In 1996, "live one to one" telephone sex advertisements bearing Tuvalu's international telephone access code 688 began appearing in pornographic magazines in Japan, the United States, and Britain. Although the calls were rerouted to "horny" operators in New Zealand, the arrangement caused embarrassment in a country where the national motto is "Tuvalu for God," and in 2000 the contract (worth A$2 million a year) was canceled.

Until 2000, the Tuvalu Trade Mission in Hong Kong was actively marketing Tuvaluan passports at US$11,000 for individuals or US$22,000 for a family of four. Although citizenship wasn't included, holders were allowed to reside in Tuvalu. Disappointing returns and bad publicity convinced the government to end the practice. Tuvalu has also bartered ambassadorships for favors, and in 1996 an Italian restaurateur snapped up the post of Ambassador to the Vatican, even though Tuvalu has less than 100 Catholics and no diplomatic relations with the Holy See (Vatican-accredited diplomats enjoy a special tax status that allows them to make huge profits on business dealings in Italy).

In early 2000 Tuvalu's internet address, .tv, began to be marketed by The .tv Corporation, a California company which paid Tuvalu royalties of US$22 million. In early 2002, the operation was purchased by VeriSign Inc. for US$45 million. Tuvalu received a US$9 million buyout and it's now paid US$500,000 a quarter on a 15-year contract. To register a .tv domain name costs considerably more than most other domain registrations and "premium" names carry a high surcharge. Television companies are the target market.