|Waitemata Harbour is the main access by sea to Auckland, New Zealand.|
With increased airlift and new hotel developments, the South Pacific is closer and more exciting than ever. We reached out to several tour operators to find out what’s happening throughout the islands of the South Pacific, and Australia and New Zealand as well.
First of all, business seems to be on the rise in the region: At Tahiti Legends, president Alain Bernard says that the company’s sales to Tahiti and Fiji have increased about 10 percent to 20 percent year over year. Jack Richards, president of Pleasant Holidays, says that his company has seen increases in travel to Tahiti since the 2009 recession, and that the growth has continued through this year. Marta Visu, vice president of marketing for Pacific Holidays, says that her company is back to pre-2007 numbers.
At Goway, Product Manager of Australia, New Zealand & South Pacific Islands Meg Boyd says that clients are booking travel closer to departure. “Lead times have definitely reduced, clients are researching their travel online, and are more educated and knowledgeable about their travel preferences.”
Who and Where?
While the region will always be popular for couples—including destination weddings and honeymoons—Richards says that he has also seen a slight increase in family travel to Tahiti, Bora Bora and Morea. “One of the key growth segments have been spa and wellness vacations,” he notes, “as there are several world-class spas such as the InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa. Yvette Broussard, product development manager for South Pacific at Classic Vacations, has also seen an increase in family travel, but notes that the families tend to be larger, with eight to 10 people together.
|Qantas’ newest service to Brisbane from Dallas has brought Australia closer to U.S. travelers.|
Paul Wiseman, president of Trafalgar, says that as clients become more educated, they are looking for more off-the-beaten-path destinations. “Having done their online research, [they] are looking for guided vacations that offer a more in-depth, regional experience. Places like Tasmania are steeped in colonial Australian history and heritage, include amazing wilderness and wildlife experience like nowhere else in the world, and yet offer a decadent food and wine experience that will make the finest epicurean salivate.”
Similarly, at Goway, Boyd says that small group travel is increasing, as is experiential travel and tours that are slightly “off the beaten track.” Specifically, she adds, “clients want to experience the destination—not just sit back and watch from a distance.” Visu says that multiple destinations are popular as a new trend—for example, combining trips to New Zealand and Tahiti, New Zealand and Fiji, or Australia and Fiji. Likewise, Broussard says that many people combine a week in the islands with three or four nights in Sydney. “Multi-island stays in Fiji and Tahiti are also popular,” she adds.
Myths vs. Facts
Looking at a map, potential visitors to the South Pacific may well feel that it’s too far away to visit…at least more than once. “Travel agents need to better communicate to their clients that Australia and New Zealand are not that far away. Do you realize that flying from Los Angeles to Rome is actually farther than flying from Los Angeles to Sydney?” notes Trafalgar’s Wiseman.
Another common misconception is that the South Pacific is a once-in-a-lifetime destination. While many travelers do only go to the region once, Richards says that Pleasant Holidays has seen an increase in repeat business with people visiting other islands such as Moorea, Tahaa or sailing onboard the M/S Paul Gauguin. Likewise, Bernard says that some clients connect with locals or enjoy their cruise experience so much that they return for a land experience.
|Moorea has seen an increasing number of tourists in recent years.|
Richards credits the increase in airlift to Tahiti from Air Tahiti between Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to Faaa International Airport (PPT) to the growth of tourism. “Later this year, Air Tahiti Nui and American Airlines will codeshare on the LAX-PPT flights operated by Air Tahiti Nui, which we believe will help grow the market from the key American Airlines hub cities throughout the U.S.”
Wiseman says that Qantas is Trafalgar’s carrier of choice for travel to Australia and New Zealand, but notes that Air New Zealand, Virgin Australia, Delta, United, Air Pacific and Hawaiian Airlines are also good competitors. “While Qantas has really opened up travel from the Midwest and Florida with its newest service from Dallas to Brisbane, it is the new A380 aircrafts that have brought Australia just that little bit closer…They have now introduced in-flight Internet, so on my last trip I was doing e-mails at 40,000 feet over the Pacific.”
Bernard, on the other hand, says that one of Tahiti Legends’ greatest challenges is the airlift. “Tahiti and Fiji are both served by one main carrier to each destination, and this presents some limitations,” he says. However, he also notes Air Tahiti Nui’s codeshare agreement with American Airlines and seems optimistic that the service will open up access from across the U.S.