SMALL CRUISE OPERATOR WINS TAHITI TAX INCENTIVES

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PAPEÉTE, Tahiti (Tahitipresse, Aug. 23) - The 14-year-old outer islands catamaran cruising company Archipels Croisières joined the Temaru government's growing group of privileged cruise operators Tuesday.

French Polynesia Vice President/Tourism Minister Jacqui Drollet and Archipels Croisières founder and owner François Profit signed an agreement that entitles the cruise operation to receive several operating incentives from the government. Those incentives include customs and tax exonerations for businesses that operate boats of fewer than 12 cabins for inter-island cruises within Tahiti and Her Islands.

Drollet said after the signing that he would like to see the agreement encourage the creation of new small cruising businesses, particularly in view of the possible lower tax exonerations. "We want to develop the sector whatever the cost. I also want to ask the Fishing Trades Employment Training Institute to train skippers, people capable of taking up this career because its among all this potential that we can find jobs for (French) Polynesians."

For Profit, the agreement signed with the Temaru government is a "good breath of fresh air" that will help him renew his fleet as Archipels Croisières benefits from exonerations from various customs and company taxes, certain transaction taxes (depending on the company bylaws) and a value added tax on fuel, necessary operating supplies and food.

Tuesday's signing was a follow-up to a vote by the French Polynesia Council of Ministers on July 5 in favor of the Moorea-based Archipels Croisières, which has announced plans to replace its four four-cabin catamarans with new, more modern catamarans between early next year and 2009.

Profit said the tax exonerations will allow him to reduce operating costs by 9% and become profitable once again, which, he said, was welcomed news after virtually no profit last year.

The signed agreement is also part of the Temaru government's overall approach of encouraging cruise vessels of all sizes to be based in Tahiti for inter-island cruises. The cruise ship sector is important to Tahiti, producing some 40,000 tourists yearly, Drollet said.

The most recent of bigger cruise vessels included in this privileged group is the 170-passenger sailing cruise ship Star Flyer, which is to be based in Tahiti for four years starting next spring. The Star Flyer will join the French Polynesia-based feet of cruise ships, which include the 330-passenger Paul Gauguin, the 684-passenger Tahitian Princess and the 85-cabin, 12-berth Aranui 3.

The operation of Archipels Croisières means a yearly direct and indirect impact of nearly 72 million French Pacific francs (US$791,209/€603,359) pumped into French Polynesia's economy, the government reported.

Archipels Croisières offers three types of cruises, selling cabin space rather than offering a charter of the entire boat. There are seven-day cruises among the Leeward Islands of Raiatea, Tahaa, Bora Bora and Huahine, three- to four-day cruises within the giant lagoon of the Tuamotu atoll of Rangiroa and seven-day cruises among the Tuamotu atolls of Fakarava, Rangiroa and Toau.

August 24, 2006

Tahitipresse: www.tahitipresse.pf

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