Tahiti Tourisme’s new ad campaign, “Embraced by Mana,” incorporates Tahitian people and culture. // © 2016 Tahiti Tourisme
Feature image (above): The campaign was made to attract “discerning explorers” looking to experience high-end luxury blended with cultural experiences. // © 2016 Tahiti Tourisme
Last month, Tahiti Tourisme officials launched a new advertising and branding campaign, hoping to raise awareness about the destination’s rich culture and history. Entitled “Embraced by Mana,” the rollout is making use of both digital and print ads, incorporating iconic images of French Polynesia’s natural beauty blended with examples of the islands’ warm Tahitian people and culture. Tahitians describe “mana” as a life force and spirit that not only surrounds all living things but also connects them.
“Tahitians are very proud,” said Los Angeles-based Jonathan Reap, president and managing director for North America for Tahiti Tourisme. “And when you allow them the opportunity to share about their culture, their history, their family, their song and their dance, they latch on to that opportunity.”
According to Reap, the destination’s new marketing campaign is an effort to shed light on more of what French Polynesia offers travelers, acting on the results of some intensive market research begun by the nation’s tourism bureau a few years ago.
“When people think of French Polynesia, they often think of Bora Bora,” Reap said. “They think of the overwater bungalow. They think about luxury, and they think about five-star products and service, and we have all of that for sure.”
Reap notes, however, that the destination’s recent research, which included interviews with visitors, indicates that many travelers were leaving with a better appreciation for Tahitian culture and wanting to know more.
“There was something much deeper than just the five-star luxury,” Reap said of the visitors’ impressions. “People discovered that the Tahitian people are amazing — the culture and the history are amazing. And even better, it’s still intact; it’s alive.”
The Embraced by Mana campaign is, in part, an effort to educate North American travelers about the rich culture and authenticity available in French Polynesia before they book a trip, but officials are also hopeful that the new push will improve on already solid U.S. and Canadian arrival totals. Reap says Tahiti Tourisme hopes the rollout will have a broad appeal while sparking particular interest for a group of travelers he describes as “discerning explorers.”
“This type of traveler really wants to experience something new and something different,” he said. “They really want be integrated into the culture, but they also want that high-end luxury.”
Tahiti tourism officials are also hoping to encourage more travelers to explore beyond just the popular island of Bora Bora, which Reap says often reaches its room capacity during nearly half of the year.
“We’re trying to build the brands and notoriety of the other islands so that our tourists will discover and fall in love with these places,” he said, referring in part to the Hidden Paradise Islands, which include Rangiroa, Huahine and Tikehau.
“It’s been really tough, because everyone just wants to come to Bora Bora,” he said. “So we’re trying to build on it and say ‘Great. Come to Bora Bora for four or five nights, but then come check out one of these little hidden gems, as well.’”
The day of our interview, in fact, Reap was leaving Los Angeles to join a group of major U.S. and Canada tour wholesale representatives in French Polynesia for a Hidden Paradise Islands familiarity tour, designed to give the packagers a better idea about how to sell the destinations to North American travelers.
Embraced by Mana will also be a major component of the 12 Tahiti receptions that the destination’s marketing team will hold for travel agents this year, working in partnership with wholesalers across the U.S. Scheduled over dinner, the evenings will include a presentation created to help sell the destination for travel pros, and the new campaign’s focus on culture will play a major role. Reap notes that the destination’s online training program, Tahiti Tiare, has also been updated with new content from the Embraced by Mana campaign.
“The way the program works, the more Tahiti you sell, the more leads you get from TahitiTourism.com,” he said. “We’ve been evolving the content as this campaign has been rolling out, so it’s now very much in line with Embraced by Mana.”
Reap says that there are now more chances for people to take part in authentic Tahitian activities in French Polynesia than in years prior. While some of that is simply more local tour providers offering products that share the islands’ history and culture with travelers, Reap notes that the nation’s hoteliers are also providing more opportunities for guests.
“The hotels are really weaving more of the Polynesian culture into their experience,” he said. “Whether it be ‘mamas’ [the matriarchs of Tahitian society] coming in to teach you how to weave baskets or paint ‘pareos’ [traditional Polynesian sarongs] or someone coming in to speak about celestial navigation, it’s slowly but surely happening.”