Tahitipresse reports that French Polynesia's president, Oscar Temaru, described Tahiti's current tourist situation as "catastrophic." On Wednesday, Temaru was elected Tahiti's president for the fourth time since 2004. He is expected to announce who his tourism minister will be on Saturday.
“There are days when hotels on Moorea and Bora Bora have occupancy rates of less than 20 percent," said Temaru.
All of French Polynesia's 24 major international hotels reported declines in occupancy with a combined average of only 36.11 percent for the month of January. The total number of tourist arrivals in 2008 was down 10 percent compared to 2007.
The low hotel occupancy rates raise the question of whether to reduce the number of hours employees work, lay off employees or close the hotels, Temaru said during his speech. He has offered a list of proposals he said his new government would implement. They included "an irreproachable marketing plan" for Air Tahiti Nui, allowing overseas investment in a time-sharing program, building a cultural center and a convention hall and making English more widely spoken.
"The French Polynesia destination will be developed with promotions of hotel products and packages in order to fight against the devastating effects of eight very low season months," said Temaru.
The promotional efforts will also include golf-related tourism, small hotels and family pensions.
Temaru noted that cruise ships based in Tahiti are operating at low passenger levels, as are Air Tahiti Nui flights that connect the destination with the outside world. All tourist industry service providers—taxis, tour buses and other activities—are losing business.
According to Temaru, the government's large financial support of Air Tahiti Nui, will be conditioned by the implementation of an irreproachable marketing plan and the application of a rigorous wage and employment policy. The government has a nearly 74 percent capital investment in the airline.
Tahiti's new government will continue to support the cruise ship industry, with particular attention paid to the quality of the welcome and the financial benefits at the local level, including the traditional artisan sector, tourism transport and supplying the ships with local products.
Temaru outlined several additional solutions for turning around Tahiti's struggling tourism industry, including developing the atoll of Tupai 12 miles north of Bora Bora as a tourist destination; conducting studies for converting the airports at Bora Bora and at Hao in the Marquesas Islands into international airports; encouraging eco-tourism, new hiking trails and cable-car projects; and generalizing the use of the English language.