Tonga is in mourning after the death of King George Tupou V.
The King died in a Hong Kong hospital yesterday afternoon after being admitted to intensive care.
The death of the 63-year-old has engulfed the country in a "black stormcloud", according to the Prime Minister.
He has called on Tongans to pray for the royal family during a sad time for the nation, Radio New Zealand International translated from Tu'ivakano national address today.
Resort operator Steve Burling said many people, particularly older Tongans, are deeply upset at their monarch's passing.
The late King of Tonga is being remembered for his influence on democracy following his death yesterday.
The chairman of the Tongan Advisory Council Melino Maka said even though the King was often criticised for his lavish lifestyle, he did a lot to accelerate democratic change in Tonga.
"Tonga moved from a monarchy with absolute power. Just three days before his coronation he announced he would voluntarily relinquish his power and he had to rely on the Prime Minister's advice.
"The people will start to appreciate what he did now that he is passing on."
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said his thoughts are with the people of Tonga following the news, and hoped that the contribution the King made to democracy will continue.
"He believed that the Monarchy was an instrument of change and can truly be seen as the architect of evolving democracy in Tonga. This will be his enduring legacy."
Tupou, 63, was sworn in as King in September 2006 following the death of his father, Taufa'ahau Tupou IV. In 2008 he marked his coronation.
Shortly after he ascended the throne, demonstrations demanding greater democracy turned into riots in which eight people died and large parts of the commercial centre of the capital, Nuku'alofa, were destroyed.
The Oxford-educated king then said he would relinquish most of his power in the last Polynesian monarchy to a broadly popularly elected government after 165 years of feudal rule.
The first elections, in which citizens voted for the majority of the seats, outnumbering those elected by nobles, took place in November 2010.
"Although political reform is not yet complete, his willingness to start is a very significant event," opposition Member of Parliament Akilisi Pohiva told Radio NZ International.
Tonga, which comprises 170 islands, has a population of about 100,000 and lies about 2120 km northeast of New Zealand.
Its economy is dominated by tourism, fishing, growing crops, and earnings sent back by expatriates.
Tupou was diagnosed with cancer last year and flew to the United States to have a tumour removed. He also suffered from type two diabetes.
Maka said the King's ill health influenced him to hasten changes to the Tongan political climate.
His funeral is not expected to take place until next week, and his body will be flown to Auckland from Hong Kong before going to Tonga.
Tupou, a flamboyant, bachelor king, was known for eccentricities, such as being driven around in a London taxi and his penchant for ornate and elaborate uniforms and top hats.
Condolences have also been pouring in for the late King of Tonga from New Zealand.
Labour Party leader David Shearer said he was well regarded within the Tongan community, known for his colourful style and charming personality.
"He was held in high esteem across the Pacific. He worked tirelessly to continue the close relationship between New Zealand and Tonga.
"I am sure many will share in Tonga's grief on this sad day," Shearer said.
Governor General Sir Jerry Mateparae extended his sympathies to the family of the King of Tonga.
He said the more than 50,000 New Zealanders of Tongan descent have given much to both country's society, economy, culture and sport and will mourn the King's passing.
Mateparae said New Zealand and Tonga have a strong relationship that is underpinned by shared Polynesian heritage and a wide array of people-to-people links.
The Mayor of Auckland said this afternoon that his office will be working with leaders of the Tongan community to decide the best way for the city to commemorate the royal's life.
Len Brown in a letter to the Tongan Prime Minister said the links between Auckland and Tonga are strong.
He said we all remember the sea of Tongan flags during the Rugby World Cup, and the strong presence of the Tongan community throughout the region, particularly at events like Pasifika and Polyfest.
"I know the king's death will be deeply felt by the Tongan community here," he said.
- With Reuters and Newstalk ZB