SAN FRANCISCO -- Runaway Tours, now in its third year in the Tahiti
market, expanded its French Polynesia product this year.
Expansion included the addition of eight properties, for a total
of 24 on eight islands. The company added commissionable optional
meal plans and commissionable optional tours and activities to its
Interisland cruises were given more prominence in its 24-page
brochure. This year it began selling the new Pearl Cruises, which
has three- and four-night cruises aboard the 21-cabin luxury vessel
Haumana, and it continues to feature Archipels Cruises'
eight-passenger catamaran cruises.
With the French Polynesia product in place, Ed Jackson, Runaway
president, is planning no major changes for 2000. One hotel will be
added to the 2000 brochure, coming out later this year -- the
Outrigger Moorea Lagoon Resort, which will open next summer, he
said. And the company's first Tahiti romance and honeymoon brochure
will be introduced later this year.
Runaway entered the Tahiti market in spring 1997. It was the
first new destination for the company since it began operating with
Hawaii and Mexico programs in 1969.
According to Jackson, Tahiti was a natural extension of its
sun-and-sea products, and there have been no surprises. "We had
researched the destination thoroughly. If anything, the quality has
exceeded expectations. We're happy with the way things have worked
out," he said.
If there is one major trend Jackson has seen since entering the
market, it is growth in Bora Bora business. "Historically, Moorea
has been the most popular island, and it is for us, but Bora Bora
is coming on strong and demand is increasing," he said.
This he attributes to new properties opening and attractive
pricing that has resulted from increased inventory. On Bora Bora,
for 1999, it added the 60-room Bora Bora Pearl Beach and the
185-room Meridien Bora Bora, both of which opened last year. Also
on Bora Bora, it added Sofitel Marara's 30 new bungalows, and the
moderately priced, 55-room Le Maitai Polynesia.
Properties new to the Runaway program on other islands are the
200-room Outrigger Tahiti Resort, which opened in July; Le Meridien
Tahiti, which opened last year; on Huahine, the 41-room Te Tiare
Beach Resort, and on Manihi, the 43-room Manihi Pearl.
"French Polynesia is a fabulous destination. What strikes me is
that people are friendly and know the value of tourism, although it
hasn't always been that way," he said.
He continued, "Its affordable and convenient -- only
seven-and-a-half hours from Los Angeles. Our big challenge is to
get this across to travel agents."
Jackson said he included optional meal plans in the brochure
this year, not only to sell them but to show that Tahiti is
MAP prices, depending on the property, range from $40 to $95 per
person, per day, with most in the $50 to $70 range. The FAP range
is $61 to $133.
He also introduced optional tours and activities. These include
circle island sightseeing tours on four islands, with prices
ranging from $25 to $108; four-wheel drive tours on four islands;
helicopter and shark-feeding tours on Bora Bora, and a lagoon
snorkel cruise on Moorea.
These were introduced because Tahiti is a custom FIT market,
with clients mixing and matching components, he said. Runaway also
offers hotel and cruise combination packages.
He explained, "There is a wide client base of people who would
like Tahiti. It is for the sophisticated traveler who has been to
Hawaii and Mexico, is looking for something different and wants to
relax. But it is not for everyone. It is not for those who want
night life, designer stores or to play golf every day."
Jackson regards Tahiti as an upmarket destination that provides
value, and Runaway set out from the beginning to exclude low-priced
properties that other operators use for their lead-price
"We're not looking for volume," he said, noting that Tahiti has
less than 4,000 rooms. You don't need the volume business that you
do for Hawaii. It's not a cutthroat market like Hawaii, and the
margins are better."
Runaway's lowest priced fall package costs $899, and includes
roundtrip air from Los Angeles, six nights at the Moorea Village,
one night at Le Mandarin Tahiti and interisland transfers. Other
specials revolve around multi-island stays at hotels of a single
chain, such as Sofitel, Parkroyal or Le Meridien.
Although Tahiti has seen more wholesalers enter the market in
recent years, Jackson does not see this as a problem. "We're all
growing the market together rather than taking market share," he
"The Tahiti government encourages new product development, and I
see great potential for growth."
Runaway's Tahiti carriers, flying from Los Angeles, are Air
France, Air New Zealand, AOM French Airlines, Air Tahiti Nui and
Corsair, which also flies from Oakland, Calif. The company also has
add-on fares on United from interior cities.
Call Runaway at (800) 622-0723.