Millennial travelers are also starting to visit the South Pacific, particularly before starting careers. // © 2014 Thinkstock
Feature image (above): Snorkeling and scuba diving are popular activities throughout the region. // © 2014 Thinkstock
With its famed sunset-drenched beaches, balmy trade winds and distinctive luxury accommodations, the South Pacific has long been a popular getaway for honeymooners.
But the region suffers from two major misconceptions — that it is too far and that it is too pricey, a double whammy that often has travelers putting off their South Pacific vacation until they celebrate a once-in-a-lifetime milestone.
As travel companies introduce new value-priced packages, however, travelers are realizing they might not have to wait to take their dream trip after all.
Wondering if the South Pacific is right for your clients? Here are a few trends emerging in the region.
Not Just for Honeymooners
While Fiji and Tahiti provide a perfectly romantic setting, the region appeals to far more than just honeymooners.
“We are seeing more multi-generational family travel and getting requests for larger multi-bedroom villas, especially at luxury resorts,” said Anna Vo, vice president at Tahiti Legends, a wholesaler specializing in South Seas vacations. “The Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora added the two-bedroom Herenui Overwater Villas this year in order to accommodate these requests. Nanuku Fiji offers families a new option for luxury accommodations where a configuration of 6-8 bedrooms in one villa is possible. Private island buyout requests are also growing.”
Millennial travelers are also starting to eye the South Pacific according to Justine Cooper, vice president of marketing for Stella Travel, the parent company of a handful of U.S. travel brands, including Islands in the Sun, Qantas Vacations, Travel2 and Travelscene.
“Young college graduates are taking a vacation before they start careers,” said Cooper. “They are getting these trips as graduation gifts, and they are opting for higher-end accommodations and not backpacker hostels.”
More Signature Activities
While the South Pacific might once have been considered a place to just chill out, the region now offers a rapidly growing variety of activities.
“At Tahiti Legends, we know that our clients become much more active and adventurous once they discover all the options available to them, including horseback riding, paddleboarding, surfing, diving, Aquatreks, hiking, ziplining, archeological tours and lagoon trips,” said Vo. Visitors are also creating more customized itineraries.
“Clients want things to their liking,” Vo said. “They want to cuddle a Koala, dive on the Great Barrier Reef or speed across the rapids on the Shotover River in Queenstown.”
Cultural experiences, such as visiting an area village and having dinner with the locals, or participating in a kava ceremony with the village chief in Fiji, are also on the rise.
Authentic opportunities are not just limited to resort guests, however; cruise passengers can also enjoy distinctive South Pacific experiences. Paul Gauguin Cruises — the operator of the m/s Paul Gauguin, the longest continually sailing luxury cruise ship in the South Pacific — employs an onboard troupe of Tahitian hosts and entertainers.
“Polynesian artwork, activities and demonstrations invite guests to share our in-depth expertise in the Polynesian lifestyle and traditions,” said Vanessa Bloy, director of public relations for Paul Gauguin Cruises.
The ship also has a watersports platform so guests have easy access to kayaking, paddleboarding and windsurfing — popular activities available on most land vacations.
New Culinary Offerings
Agents with foodie clients should note that the South Pacific is also seeing a surge in culinary offerings.
“French Polynesia has some of the top chefs working out of their best resorts,” said Cooper.
Chef Lance Seeto, the executive chef at Castaway Island, Fiji Resort stars in his own television show, “Taste of Paradise,” which is syndicated across the South Pacific. Working to reintroduce Fiji’s traditional artisan techniques, he has recently signed a partnership with Fiji Airways to develop a new signature dish for their business-class customers.
Cooking classes are also gaining in popularity. In Fiji, for example, the Flavours of Fiji offers half-day classes on Denarau Island, where visitors can learn how to create traditional dishes using local ingredients.
Expanded In-Flight Offerings
Clients traveling to the South Pacific are also seeing significantly expanded in-flight offerings on both Fiji Airways, which underwent a full rebrand in 2013, and Air Tahiti Nui, the official carrier for Tahiti.
Both airlines share an all-new executive lounge at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), which provides free Wi-Fi access and snacks.
Air Tahiti Nui is further offering upgraded services to travelers.
“Our new Inflight Entertainment System that features on-demand access to nearly 38 movies and television programs, including Tahiti-focused ‘Tiare TV,’ combined with our boutique feel and exclusive Polynesian hospitality makes Air Tahiti Nui flights an authentic part of the travel experience to Tahiti,” said Nicholas Panza, vice president, the Americas for Air Tahiti Nui.
As in-flight experiences grow and in-country activities and culinary offerings expand, visitors are starting to realize they might just be ready for a South Pacific getaway after all.