Blue skies again for Tahiti after stormy stretch


LOS ANGELES -- After a rough spell when Tahiti's tourism industry just couldn't get moving, the destination is buzzing again.

Signs of a rebound include a growth in U.S. visitor numbers, which have doubled to more than 100,000 in the past three years, as well as hotel openings, cruise lines entering the market and new packages from tour operators.

One of the biggest reasons for the turnaround was the Tahiti government's investment in the country's own airline, Air Tahiti Nui.

Air rescue

Air Tahiti Nui, which began flying four years ago, gave Tahiti a serious boost, according to Jimmy Murphy, chairman of Brendan Worldwide Vacations, which sells Tahiti.

"Twenty years ago, Tahiti was a popular destination with Americans, but then it dropped off," Murphy said. "The Tahitian government decided to back the airline, to put some real money behind it, and now [tourism is] right back up there.

"There's a huge increase in accommodations, new hotels everywhere. With lift they could depend on, hoteliers could invest in the destination."

Prior to the creation of Air Tahiti Nui, the destination had been dependent on the whims of foreign carriers, a spokesman for the airline said.

"The government wanted to control its own destiny, to know it had its own airline and not worry that if business was slow, the airlines were going to pull out," he said.

Property assessment

The Bora Bora Beachcomber Inter-Continental, above, recently received a $2 million refurbishment, including 13 new overwater bungalows and a swimming pool with swim-up bar. Hotel companies are investing throughout the country. For example, the Bora Bora Beachcomber Inter-Continental completed a $2 million refurbishment.

The refit upgraded the resort's 51 overwater bungalows with new furniture and art, extended landscaped terraces and redesigned bathrooms. Thirteen bungalows were added, along with a new swimming pool and pool bar.

The Pearl Beach Taha'a opened in July. Located on the Motu Tautau on the coral reef, the property offers views of Bora-Bora on the ocean side.

The resort features 48 overwater suites and 14 beach suites, each more than 300 square feet. Units include private patios, tropical gardens, private swimming pools (in beach suites), lounges and terraces and private decks with direct access to the lagoon.

The 120-room Hotel Bora Bora Nui Resort & Spa, a Starwood Luxury Collection property, opened last month with 84 bungalows. The top-end hotel sits on 16 acres overlooking a private cove.

Meanwhile, the Le Maitai Dream Fakarava hotel is scheduled to open in mid-September. It's the second Maitai property in the region; the first was Le Maitai Polynesia in Bora-Bora.

The Fakarava hotel has 30 luxury bungalows facing a lagoon with a coral reef.

Inclusive packages are available incorporating the on-site restaurant; a scuba center also is on the site.


New developments in Tahiti aren't limited to hotels. Princess Cruises is joining Windstar and Radisson Seven Seas in the market with the addition of two former Renaissance Cruises ships to its fleet; the ships will debut as the Tahitian Princess and the Pacific Princess.

The Tahitian Princess will sail year-round in Tahiti and the South Pacific with 50 departures of 10-day, roundtrip sailings from Papeete.

Each itinerary includes calls at Bora-Bora, Moorea and Raiatea. Prices will begin at $799 per person, double. The Pacific Princess will sail half the year in French Polynesia and the Pacific region.

Discount plans

To attract visitors, specially priced -- and fully commissionable -- packages are posted on the Tahiti Tourisme Web site by tour and cruise operators.

Participating firms include: Brendan, Gogo Worldwide Vacations, Happy Vacations, Pacific Escapes, Pleasant Tahitian Holidays, Radisson Seven Seas Cruises, Sunspots International, Tahiti Legends, Windstar Cruises and Princess Cruises.

Travel agents should click "Special Offers" from the home page. All packages are commissionable at a base 10% and are advertised with the note, "Visit your local travel agent or click here to locate a [Tahiti specialist agent] near you."

A sample deal from Pleasant Holidays is a four-night package at the Sofitel Maeva Beach resort priced from $852 per person, double, including roundtrip air.

Gogo features a seven-night package to the Tahiti Beachcomber Inter-Continental priced from $1,339 per person, double. The deal is valid for travel from Oct. 1 to 31.

Brendan offers a six-night package featuring four nights at the Moorea Beachcomber Inter-Continental priced from $1,498 for travel through Oct. 31.

For additional information, call Tahiti Tourism at (310) 414 8484 or visit the Web site.

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