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The Islands of Tahiti Reopened with a Very Thoughtful Twist

As the dream destination once again welcomes international travelers, most of the tourism industry is doing away with cancellation fees.

July 23, 2020
Bora Bora
Bora Bora and the rest of the Islands of Tahiti reopened their borders to travelers from the U.S. and Europe on July 15. Shutterstock

By all expectations, 2020 was set to be a phenomenal year for the Islands of Tahiti. After all, 2019 saw the biggest increase in arrivals in almost 20 years, with a record-breaking 43 percent of all visitors coming from the United States. The addition of more affordable flights a year earlier suddenly made reaching this once in a lifetime dream destination an attainable goal, and suddenly the idea of annual return trips became far more realistic to many travelers. 

But like so many other areas of the world with economies that rely heavily on tourism, the Covid-19 pandemic forced the Islands of Tahiti to close its borders earlier this year. The goal during this time was to limit the spread of the virus, something that Tahitians did with aplomb. Because of their success in limiting the islands’ number of total cases to 62, and with no new active cases reported since late May, officials announced that July 15 would be the day to reignite the regional economy and reopen international borders to travelers from the United States and Europe.

“The country, the health authorities including the Ministry of Tourism and Tahiti Tourisme as well as the tourism actors have all been mobilized over the last few weeks to prepare for the return of our visitors,” said Jean-Marc Mocellin, who was appointed the role of CEO of Tahiti Tourisme earlier this year, but was unable to physically take office due to the shutdown. “This health protocol with the ETIS platform and the Traveler’s Self-Test implies a huge work and an impressive logistics for a territory as big as Europe.”

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Of course, before excited travelers begin booking flights, there are rules

Anyone arriving by air, resident or visitor, will need to complete a series of actions, beginning with completing an RT-PCR test for SARS-CoV-2 within three days of departure, and eventually presenting proof of the negative result at check-in. Next, the government has created a health surveillance system that requires the completion of an online commitment form and allows officials to contact travelers throughout their trips and even monitor their health status. And, four days after arrival, all visitors will take another, self-administered RT-PCR test that will be provided upon arrival. A positive test will require medical care and quarantine at the traveler’s expense.

While many companies like airlines and hotels are individually amending their cancellation and change of plans policies to aid travelers in this unprecedented period, the Islands of Tahiti has taken a unified step in assuring guests will have no problems canceling their trips should things take a turn for the worse. This “Common Cancellation Policy” has been signed by Air Tahiti Nui and Air Tahiti, the major international air carrier and domestic airline, respectfully, as well as most of the region’s hotels.

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Among the reasons fees can be waived are the inability to travel due to border closures, a lockdown in French Polynesia and testing positive for Covid-19 prior to departure. Any new reservation made between May 1 and September 30 of this year will qualify for this policy, as long as the trip takes place between July 15, 2020 and June 30, 2021.

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