Tahiti Tourism Touches Down in Toronto

Goway Travel and travel agents gather at the Goway display space at a Tahiti Tourism event in Toronto.

Exotic. Beautiful beyond belief. And romantic as all get out.

The islands of Tahiti have a reputation as one of the most stunning destinations on earth. But there’s a very large misconception that even travel agents aren’t always aware of.

“When I go door to door the biggest hurdle I find is this perception about cost,” Aubrey Schmidt of Goway Travel said at Tuesday night’s Tahiti Tourism event in Toronto. “Agents say to me, ‘My client would have to win Lotto 6-49 to go to Tahiti,’ but that’s simply not the case.

“Goway has specials for around $3,100 CAD, including air fare. You could go to a lovely resort in the Caribbean for the same price, but you get way more bragging rights if you come back from Tahiti,” Schmidt said with a smile. “I’d say our biggest challenge is making agents aware of the affordability of Tahiti. The distance also is an issue that’s raised, but it’s only eight hours from Los Angeles.”

Tanya States of TravelBrands echoed Schmidt’s sentiment.

“There’s always so much to talk about in the South Pacific and Tahiti,” she told TravelPulse Canada. “The great thing about TravelBrands is that we can customize trips for all sorts of travellers, and we can accommodate people at so many price points. We have a package now that’s seven nights, land only, for just $2,059 CAD per person, double occupancy. That price includes domestic flights from Papeete to Bora Bora, all ground transfers and seven nights in a lagoon view room at the Le Maitai Polynesia in Bora Bora, not to mention American breakfast daily. Overwater bungalow upgrades can be purchased.

“People think affordability is an issue, but that’s because they’re not fully ware of the offerings we have. You can choose a detailed itinerary or go totally custom day by day.”

Schmidt said some folks see Tahiti as merely a “fly and flop” destination. But it’s so much more.

For example, one of his favourite things to do is to stay at the sumptuous Le Taha’a Island Resort and Spa and ride a gentle current through a coral reef maze.

“It’s called drift snorkelling, and it’s totally amazing.”

Colette Baert from Tahiti Tourism’s Montreal office said Tahiti is a land “embraced by mana,” which is a word the Tahitians (and other Polynesian peoples, including Hawaiians) have for the life force and spirit that surrounds us all.

Michael Scott of United Airlines told TravelPulse Canada that United now flies three times a week to Tahiti from San Francisco on a year-round basis. Flights are on Sunday, Thursday and Saturday, and United’s twice-a-day flights from Toronto to San Francisco are timed so people have the best possible connection times.

One advantage of flying United is that they’re a Star Alliance and Aeroplan partner, so Canadians who collect Aeroplan points can amass them on a flight to Tahiti or cash in their points for the trip of a lifetime.

Air Tahiti Nui, meanwhile, has introduced Dreamliners on its routes from California to Tahiti. Air Tahiti Nui flies 10 times a week to Papeete from Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Prices are quite good right now as upstart airline Frenchbee also is flying from California to Tahiti.

Another great way to save money on a trip to Tahiti is by staying at local homes or guest houses, where you can dine with locals and really learn about Tahitian life and culture. It’s a program the tourism board has been encouraging, and it sounds fabulous.

Speakers at Tuesday night’s event also talked about the appeal of Tahiti for runners (they hold a wonderful marathon, half-marathon, 10km race and children’s race every year) and explorers. You’ll find beaches and overwater bungalows, for sure, but also a rich, ancient culture, welcoming people, great food markets and an LGTBQ-friendly vibe.

Other developments include a new ferry that goes from bustling Papeete to magnificent Moorea in just 20 minutes, as well as new itineraries for the supply ship Aranui, which visits far-flung Tahiti islands such as the Marqueas.

A company called Haumana is offering three-day cruises in the Tahiti islands on a 118-foot catamaran with 12 cabins. In addition to seeing the islands from the water, you might spot families of whales if you’re there at the right time of year. Baert said whales are quite common in Tahiti when it’s fall in the northern hemisphere.

Tahiti consists of some 118 islands scattered over five archipelagos, each with distinct physical characteristics, including the rugged Marquesas (home to Jacques Brel, Paul Gauguin and Herman Melville at some points in their lives) to the beautiful atolls of the Tuamotos.

The temperature averages around 27 Celsius year-round. There’s a humid season during our winter but it usually doesn’t rain for long, and there’s a dry season that more or less runs at the same as spring, summer and early fall in the northern hemisphere.

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