Tahiti Seeks to Expand Tourist Appeal Beyond Romance Market
By James Ruggia
September 03, 2012 9:11 PM
Most American travelers have a strong identification of the islands of Tahiti as a romance destination. In an April survey of 7,200 Virtuoso agents, Tahiti finished second to Italy as the top honeymoon destination. With that market consolidated, Tourisme Tahiti is meeting internally to see what it can do to add more dimensions to their markets.
There are certainly enough resources in French Polynesia, the country’s official name, with 118 islands and atolls. “We generally say that about 40 to 50 percent of the arrivals into the islands of Tahiti from North America are honeymooners or couples celebrating a milestone such as an anniversary. However, depending on the season, it could be a bit higher,” said Jonathan Reap, Tahiti Tourisme North America’s (TTNA) managing director.
“Honeymoon, destination weddings and romance as a whole make up our key market for sure,” Reap said. “However, we have seen an increase in the family market over the past few years. Primarily due to the hotels and resorts having exceptional family programs, as well as Air Tahiti Nui's "Kids Fly Free" program (each child 11 and under fly free with an adult).” Many of Tahiti’s best resorts are spread out enough to handle families and romance couples, a combination that often clashes in many destinations.
The most popular and established of Tahiti’s islands -- Bora Bora, Moorea and Tahiti itself -- all benefit from a continued focus on romance and a growth in family markets. Resorts like the Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora can reach high-end families with villas that can be used like private beach homes, ranging from 3,228 to 5,280 square feet, complete with their own pools and beaches, perfect for families. The resort’s overwater bungalows are spacious at 1,080 square feet, each with a living room, a queen-sized sofa bed, as well as a private deck for dining and lounging. The resort on occasion has reached out to families with deals like a 50 percent off a second overwater bungalow for kids they ran earlier in the year.
A second tier of destination islands are popular with romantic couples and divers. “We estimate about 80 to 90 percent of the visitors from the U.S. are hitting the islands of Tahiti, Moorea and Bora Bora. The other islands that are receiving more Americans are Taha'a, Tikehau, Rangiroa and Huahine,” said Reap.
It was the more remote Marquesan Islands of Tahiti that first captured the imagination of early travelers such as Paul Gauguin, Robert Louis Stevenson and Herman Melville. “There are not too many adventure travelers from the states coming to the islands as a whole,” said Reap. “We would estimate them at around 5 percent. However, for the Marquesas, I believe the primary visitors are abroad the Aranui III passenger freighter and these would be mostly adventure travelers.”
Today, the freighter Aranui III brings high-end adventure cruisers out to these islands, along with a wide range of experts within the disciplines of art, science and history, helping passengers immerse themselves in the world's most unique culture. The working cargo freighter makes 14-day journeys out of Papeete offering cultural excursions to all six inhabited islands in the Marquesas -- Ua Pou, Nuka Hiva, Hiva Oa, Fatu Hiva and Tahuata -- as well as Fakarava and Rangiroa in the Tuamotu archipelago. While the ship serves dual purposes as a passenger cruise and cargo freighter, it is designed for passenger comfort with two bar/lounges, a swimming pool, gym and several additional amenities.
“Additionally, multi-generation travel is on the upswing,” said Reap. “General leisure travel is also increasing which we're attributing to the realizing of Tahiti's location and how close it really is -- the islands of Tahiti are only eight hours from Los Angeles -- just a few more hours in the air compared to Hawaii and a world away.”