EXODUS OF TAHITI-BASED CRUISE SHIPS RAISES CONCERN

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Tourism minister suggests government-owned ships

PAPEETE, Tahiti (Tahitipresse, February 24, 2009) – "I think the time has come when the country needs to acquire a cruise ship and put its operation in the hands of professionals," Tahiti's new tourism minister, Jacqui Drollet, said on Feb. 17.

"The ships are leaving us one after the other," Drollet said, referring to December's departure of the 670-passenger Tahitian Princess, which had been based in Papeete since December 2002. This was the fifth cruise ship to leave in 21 years and the second to leave in three years.

The Tahitian Princess' departure leaves two foreign-flag cruise ships based in Papeete for regular cruises. One is the 330-passener M/S Paul Gauguin, which celebrated its 10th anniversary of cruising in French Polynesia early last year.

The other is the 170-passenger, four-masted sailing ship Star Flyer, which began four years of 10- and 11-night cruises among Tahiti and Her Islands a year ago December.

Although the cruise ship sector started out very strong last year, by the end of the year it showed only a 1.7 percent gain in passengers over 2007. There were 43,520 cruise ship passengers during 2008, compared with 42,793 in 2007, a difference of 727 passengers.

December produced 2,937 cruise ship passengers, a drop of 734, or 20 percent, from the year ago volume of 3,671 passengers. Yet, the cruise ship sector accounted for 22 percent of all Tahiti's tourists last year, a 1.7 percent increase.

But while the cruise ship sector improved its market share last year, overall tourism dropped 18.9 percent and the volume of tourists staying in land accommodations was down 12.8 percent.

The result was a volume of 196,496 tourists for 2008. That was a drop of 13,940, or 18.9 percent, from 2007's 218,241 visitors.

Drollet's public comments reported by the local media came the day after his appointment as Tahiti's tourism minister for the third time since 2004. He held the same post in separate Temaru governments in 2004 and 2005.

Oscar Temaru, Tahiti's president for the fourth time since 2004, has once again kept the ministerial portfolio for international airline transportation, along with the portfolios for relations with government institutions, relations between French Polynesia and France and Europe, international relations and communications.

Following a morning photo session of all 15 ministers of the new Temaru government on Feb. 17, Drollet said, "I have already had a working meeting with the GIE Tahiti Tourisme. I will have another one tomorrow and the day after."

And before the end of the week, Drollet had set up office at the GIE Tahiti Tourisme, where the Tourism Ministry will eventually be located.

It seems to me that the status, regarding the tourism situation of our 'country', is known," Drollet said. It's now time to make decisions as quickly as possible. What can be done with all these hotels and their strategy? What can be done with all those who work in these hotels?

"There's 500 million French Pacific francs (US$5.4m/€4.1.9m) available for action," he said. "I guarantee you that within a week there will be proposals to use a maximum of this amount.

"There are outstanding issues on the various forms of tourism that we can have here: eco-tourism, cruise ship tourism."

Tahitipresse: http://www.tahitipresse.pf/index.cfm?lang=2

 

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