|The Brando’s 35 deluxe villas have private beach areas, plunge pools, outdoor bathtubs and terraces.|
Interest in the South Pacific region remains solid. When asked about their “Interest in Visiting International Areas/Regions During the Next Two Years,” one in four respondents to MMGY Global’s 2015 Portrait of American Travelers cited Oceania. That represents strong opportunities for travel sellers. With that in mind, here’s a look at destinations, markets and trends that can help expand your Pacific sales.
Australia and New Zealand
Weakened currencies in both Australia and New Zealand make the countries particularly attractive for visitors. And more direct flights are making access easier. Australia’s icons such as Sydney, Melbourne and the Great Barrier Reef will always be top draws, but niche markets are taking hold as well. Culinary travel, for one, is resonating with Jane Osborne’s clients. She’s a destination specialist with Downunder Travel in Vancouver, BC.
“Tourism Australia and Restaurant Australia are really pushing their ‘Inviting the World to Dinner’ promotion. I’d say it’s resonating with the public. I’ve got a group of 24 going down for a food and wine trip that will be very specialized,” Osborne tells Travel Agent.
In addition to culinary tours, indigenous experiences are more available. “Australia has been certifying different sites for tours. They’re calling it the Indigenous Tourism Champions Program. It’s something that really works well for the North American market. People want to learn about other cultures when they travel, and this fits very nicely,” says Osborne.
Another trend she’s noticed is that clients are shunning big-bus tours. “They don’t want to do exactly the same thing everyone else is doing. I’m getting more requests for self-drives and B&B stays,” adds Osborne.
Many trends in Australia travel apply as well to New Zealand. Uncrowded country roads and scenic vistas have long inspired driving tours. But active travel remains the prime market niche for New Zealand. Tour operators such as Backroads are launching new programs to meet demand.
Their new Family Breakaway tour in New Zealand is designed for families with older teens and college-age kids.
“The trip has three two-night stays, meaning not so much moving around and a more relaxed pace, which is great for families. The activities include hiking, biking, kayaking and rafting on the Tongariro River, the Agrodome for a sheep-shearing demonstration and zorbing, which is a hit with the kids,” Backroads spokesperson Liz Einbinder tells us. Zorbing, for those unfamiliar with the Kiwi sport, entails rolling downhill inside a giant plastic orb.
Whatever the reason clients choose to vacation Down Under, Jill Taylor of Jet Set World Travel observes that, “Everyone comes home happy from Australia and New Zealand [because] the scenery and the people are fantastic and you never meet a stranger.” She also attributes the region’s popularity to “down-to-earth experiences [and] amazing food and wine.”
Daniela Harrison of Avenues of the World Travel says, “The South Pacific is hot for 2016. I’m getting lots of requests for Australia and New Zealand, all three- to four-week long trips.” She also says that, “The Cook Islands are getting more attention too.”
The islands of Polynesia is a haven for honeymooners, of course, but other markets are hardly immune to the region’s charms.
“For Fiji, I’m seeing an increase in destination wedding business. It’s not just a bride and groom on honeymoon. It’s also strong for families. The local Fijian people love kids. They’re super warm and welcoming. I’ve had a lot of people go to Fiji for school holidays and their school-age kids have a great time,” says Osborne.
In French Polynesia, luxury eco-travel attracts both romance travelers and families. One of the most anticipated properties of recent years opened just last year some 30 miles north of Tahiti. Nestled on Tetiaroa, the private atoll once owned by actor Marlon Brando, The Brando is a founding member of National Geographic’s Unique Lodges of the World.
“Unique” is but one apt description for the property, which has already earned international acclaim. The atoll consists of a dozen islets surrounding a turquoise lagoon. Guests arrive there via a 20-minute flight from Tahiti by Air Tetiaroa.
The Brando’s 35 deluxe villas have private beach areas, plunge pools, outdoor bathtubs and terraces. “They’re very private and very secluded,” Vanessa Bloy, The Brando’s public relations director for North America, says. “Our two- and three-bedroom villas can accommodate families. We also have Lagoon School, where naturalists teach kids about the special environment they’re surrounded by.”
Activities for both children and adults highlight the ecosystem of the atoll and surrounding waters. An Ecostation at the resort is run in conjunction with an environmental nonprofit.
“We have scientists from all over the world come to the Ecostation to conduct research on the ocean and how to preserve the biodiversity,” says Bloy.
Naturalists conduct daily boat tours around the lagoon and its reefs. From November to March, guests can also take part in sea turtle nesting activities.
“Brando’s vision was to show others around the world how to be a model for sustainability. We use salt water for the air-conditioning system, solar panels on the runway and make biofuel from coconut oil. There’s also a water desalination plant,” says Bloy.
Whether your clients are keen on sustainability or not, they can look forward to a luxury guest experience at The Brando. The spa offers Polynesian treatments on the banks of a pond or high up in a palm tree. An organic garden and beehives help supply to the resort’s two restaurants. They’re overseen by Guy Martin of the Michelin two-star restaurant Le Grand Véfour in Paris.