The Islands of Tahiti: Intimacy Remains a Key Asset

Statistics for 2017 up until October, show a rise of 3.1% in tourism in the Islands of Tahiti compared to 2016. We asked Gina Bunton, Chief Operations Officer for Tahiti Tourisme how this fits with her organisation’s strategy.

We’re not seeing huge growth, but we’re seeing sustained growth, and we are looking at this to continue for 2018, especially with the new airlines coming in. It must be underlined that the Islands of Tahiti is not a mass tourism destination. It ’s never been our strategy. One of the pillars of our communication is privacy, and this is also the experience we want to be able to give visitors: that feeling of being alone. The maximum number of tourists we have targeted for the moment is 200,000 for the year. So, we get as many tourists in a year as Hawaii would get in a week. We want to continue growing, but in a sustainable way that’s going to be respectful of our population and of our environment as well, but that’s still going to be good enough to distribute the wealth and the financial input for everyone in the islands.

Culture is an important part of your message. What’s different in The Islands of Tahiti in this respect?

There are a number of other tropical destinations with overwater bungalows. It’s not proprietary any more. But nobody can copy our people; that is something that’s unique to us. And the mix we are going to be able to create with that… that’s going to be the dream, and that is going to be something that can’t be replicated anywhere else. And that’s where the idea of including culture and including the people in our communication and in our campaigns came from. And it has paid off, because the local population, the stakeholders, engage a lot more with this campaign than ever before. They said ‘It’s the first time we recognise ourselves in one of the campaigns the tourism board is putting out there’, which is amazing. But also, it’s showing that unique side – a different side of the islands compared to what we were showing before, which was basically couples, romance, overwater bungalows in the lagoon. We are still showing that, as it’s a strength and part of the beauty of the destination.


We have just added different layers and we are trying to show the diversity. There are more islands than the ones you already know about. We have 118 islands and there are many different kinds of accommodation. It’s not just overwater bungalows or expensive resorts. There’s a whole mix out there of guesthouses, where, if you want to engage with the locals, if you want to be closer to the culture, it’s a more private way and more affordable way to visit the islands. Then there’s cruising and yacht charter – either with or without crew – that are interesting alternatives. Villas are becoming very strong, and that’s a great solution for families or people who just want more privacy and want to feel ‘at home’. It’s up to you how you want to discover the islands of Tahiti!

You recently launched a new website strategy. What’s different with the new version?

The website has been built to be more consumer friendly, around the consumer experience. 17 versions of the new website have been launched by Tahiti Tourisme around the world – the latest one in China last month. New articles are being posted every month based on what trends are being indicated to us by Google. We also have a “Tahiti Specialist” section where people can be put in direct contact with agents who can create custom itineraries for travellers.

So the message is “diversity”?

It’s been the message for some time now. The Islands of Tahiti, it’s not what you’d expect. It’s not what you think you know. There are more sides to the destination than most people could imagine… unt i l they come and discover the islands for themselves.

Photo : Gina Bunton Chief Operations Officer, Tahiti Tourisme