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NOUMEA, (Oceania Flash, Sept. 8) - Tourism stakeholders in New Caledonia are planning to hold a roundtable in November in a bid to salvage the Pacific territory as an attractive destination.

Last year, just above 100,000 visitors chose New Caledonia as their holiday destination.

Christiane Gambay, who used to head the Destination Loyalty Islands concern, was last month appointed "Destination Nouvelle-Calédonie" head.

She told local media that one of the keys to putting the industry back on track was to implement a common destination approach.

Until last year, New Caledonia was promoting itself under three different banners, one for each of the three provinces: North, South and Loyalty Islands.

Gambay said from now on, New Caledonia must "speak with one voice" on the regional and international front.

"We will now work on all existing problems, and try to iron them out, whether it regards air links, hotel capacity or service provided to the visitors", she said.

Foreign tourists visiting New Caledonia often complain about high prices and more generally, about the lack of service, recent surveys showed.

"The tourism sector is in a difficult phase. And according to previsions, another 1,300 hotel rooms should become available shortly. This is a fifty per cent increase of the hotel capacity. And these rooms now have to be filled with customers." The November seminar is expected to come up with a new strategy and an action plan to boost New Caledonia as a destination as early as next month.

Concerned stakeholders have recently formed a group to voice their concern.

Their spokesman, Michel Doppler, said the current state of New Caledonia's tourism industry had not show any improvement for the past twenty years.

"As opposed to all the other Pacific destinations, in New Caledonia, for the past twenty years, the number of visitors has hardly increased: there were 94,000 in 1984 and last year 102,000", he said.

"And in order for our hotel industry to function properly, it is generally acknowledged that there should be at least fifteen thousand visitors per year. And with the anticipated increase in hotel capacity for next year, we would really need sixty to eighty thousand more visitors. Practically, this means we should reach the two hundred thousand mark before 2007".

Last year, hotels around the French Pacific territory have had to terminate some 89 staff.

Altogether, New Caledonia's tourism industry employs about 3,300 staff.

September 8, 2004

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