Tahiti conjures up exotic images of topaz waters lapping soft, pearly sand; mountains shrouded in forest; and flower-adorned women dancing in grass skirts.
Paradise doesn’t tend to come cheap, but Tahiti Tourisme UK is keen to change perceptions among consumers and the trade by highlighting the affordability of the destination.
“The Islands of Tahiti have long been viewed as a luxury, aspirational destination, beyond the reach of most travellers,” says Jim Odoire of Tahiti Tourisme UK. “Our ultimate aim is to position the islands as a destination that is accessible to all.”
The tourist board is keen to highlight the varying levels of accommodation offered by the archipelago of 118 islands.
“Along with the ultra-luxurious hotels and Tahiti’s renowned overwater bungalows, there are villas, three-star hotels and onboard experiences offered through cruising and yachting,” says Odoire.
Another option is for clients to stay in one of the Tahitian guesthouses, reasonably priced mid-range or budget properties often set in the grounds of a family home. These are sold via Turquoise Holidays, which pays agents commission.
“As they are usually boutique properties, smaller in size than the large-scale chain hotels, they can offer clients more privacy and more off-the-beaten tourist track locations,” says Odoire.
“They are also a great introduction to authentic Polynesian culture with the chance to be closer to the people and their way of living.”
UK visitors tend to be familiar with islands such as Tahiti, Moorea and Bora Bora, also known as the Society Islands.
There are, however, many more islands to choose from: Rangiroa and Fakarava, which are increasing in popularity, are also more affordable than their Society Island neighbours.
Tahiti is also keen to highlight its experiences beyond the fly-and-flop holiday, including watersports, hiking and island-hopping, allowing clients to strike a balance between activity and relaxation.
Clients staying on Raiatea now have the option of boarding a seaplane for a flight around Bora Bora and the other Society Islands to experience their breathtaking beauty from above.
Tahiti Air Charter launched last month and is the destination’s first seaplane charter in more than 50 years. The company also offers private inter-island charter flights.
Some clients have been put off because of Tahiti’s remoteness, but the islands are more accessible than ever thanks to two new routes launching this year.
From October 30, United Airlines will offer three flights a week between San Francisco and Papeete, opening up San Francisco as a US stopover destination. The eight-hour flight will run seasonally between October and March and is served by Boeing 787 aircraft.
Meanwhile, French low-cost long-haul airline French Bee has announced that it will operate twice-weekly flights from Paris Orly to Papeete via San Francisco, with three weekly flights operating during peak season, between June 20 and October 28.
On the glitzier end of the accommodation spectrum, the iconic Brando Resort is further cementing its luxurious status with the opening of four new overwater satellite villas at the InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa.
The four Brando Suites, designed by Philippe Grandou, who has lived and worked in Tahiti for more than a decade, will serve as a pit stop for clients, to ease the long journey for Brando guests on their way to the main resort on Tetiaroa.
Agents should bear in mind that the four-star Sofitel Bora Bora Marara Beach Resort is currently closed until December 15 owing to extensive renovations of its Overwater, Superior Overwater, Superior Garden and Superior Beach rooms. Work will be completed by August 2019, although the hotel will be partially open from late December.
Of further use to agents will be a new Tahiti Specialist online training programme, which is currently being developed by Tahiti Tourisme UK.
The programme will allow Certified Tahiti Specialists to be listed on the official Tahiti Tourisme website, as well as receive sales leads when customers build their own Tahiti itinerary on the site.