French Polynesia Seeks Millionaire Tourists while former Hilton employees hunger strike

Tahiti tourism is way down in the past year.  When an overwater bungalow room at a luxury resort on Bora Bora goes for US$1,500 per night, well, got points? French Polynesia is seeking millionaire tourists.

Year-to-date tourist arrivals to French Polynesia from September 2009 showed a drop from 150,000 to less than 119,000 arrivals. International hotels averaged 45% occupancy during the first nine months of 2009, down by 7.8% over the prior year. Recent tourism numbers indicate tourists are staying two days longer this year, but arrivals were down 10% in January 2010 compared to 2009. Then a hurricane hit in February and damaged some hotels around the islands. The St. Regis Bora Bora is closed for repairs until June 2010.

Hotel statistics show 2010 is worse than 2009 for French Polynesia and many hotels are averaging just 30% occupancy. Hoteliers are worried.

South Pacific Management took over management of two former Starwood Hotels in January 2009, when the Sheraton Tahiti and Sheraton Moorea Lagoon were rebranded as Hilton Hotels. The hotels’ owner Louis Wane remains unchanged. He also owns the Hilton Bora Bora Nui Resort.

Flyertalk member Thunderroad (Springsteen fan?) has an extensive trip report of the Hilton Moorea and Hilton Bora Bora from a trip in fall 2009.

Hilton Tahiti closed last month citing the poor economy as the primary reason. The hotel had 189 hotel rooms and a conference center meeting space. 131 employees lost their jobs. A recent news report states former Hilton Tahiti employees have started a hunger strike. I couldn’t find a second independent corroborating source on the hunger strike. I am sure the employment situation is rather bleak if tourism is down to levels not seen in 15 years. 

The two remaining Hilton hotels in French Polynesia have 225 rooms – Hilton Moorea Lagoon, a 10-minute flight from Tahiti, and the Hilton Bora Bora Nui Resort, a one hour flight from the French Polynesia international airport at Papeete, Tahiti. 

Hotel room math

Two Hilton hotels at Moorea and Bora Bora have 82,125 available room nights over the course of the year and 365 days.

Assume a tourist spends an average of 7 room nights, but assume half of the visitors are couples staying together in one room. There are single travelers of course, but there are also couples with kids not booking two rooms.

French Polynesia had 120,000 tourist arrivals in the past year. One room night for every two tourists is 60,000 room nights x 7 nights per tourist stay = 420,000 room nights needed over the course of the year.

Hilton’s three properties were around 160,000 room nights by themselves.

The closure of the Hilton Tahiti removed nearly 70,000 room nights out of the French Polynesia hotel room supply. South Pacific Management decided to focus resources on the Hilton Moorea Lagoon that has just seen a US$12 million renovation and improvement including a new pool and new suites. Hilton Bora Bora Nui is planning to upgrade furnishings in 2010 and build a kids club. 

French Polynesia is seeking millionaires; the kind of people who spend money to take their kids to Bora Bora luxury hotels.

 The St. Regis Bora Bora offers a 7th night free with a 6-night hotel stay.

This seems to be a good time to try for a free night in Bora Bora and lobby your host for a paid upgrade to the overwater villa. Hilton HHonors free night promotion certainly makes a trip like this much more affordable in 2010. But you will need points for Le Meridien Bora Bora or St. Regis Bora Bora since the SPG free weekend night doesn’t apply for these category 7 SPG hotels.

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined BoardingArea.com in 2008.

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  1. My wife and I recently came back from our honeymoon in Bora Bora. We stayed at the Intercontinental Thalasso. The resorts there definitely have Stay 5/Pay 3-type deals, so your average nightly rate isn’t AS high as you might think. Nevertheless, it’s still pretty expensive. As honeymooners, it was kind of cool that the resorts were so empty. Definitely made things seem more remote. The decision to close Hilton Tahiti and focus on Moorea was probably a good one. Tahiti itself is not worth going to. Moorea and Bora Bora are nicer.

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