Officials in French Polynesia are taking proactive steps to protect the region by placing a cap on the number of annual visitors.
The 5-year plan calls for an annual cap of 280,000 tourists in Tahiti, Bora Bora, and other smaller islands as officials aim for what they are calling high-value, small-scale tourism.
Called Farira’a Manihini 2027, the plan aims to establish French Polynesia as a boutique destination and leader in slow tourism. It is still awaiting final approval from the territorial assembly.
While targeting 280,000, Jean-Marc Mocellin, CEO of Tahiti Tourisme, said the number should not exceed 300,000 in final approval or roughly one tourist for every inhabitant of the region.
He hopes that the limited number of tourists will stay for longer periods.
“The cost of getting to the Islands of Tahiti makes it an ideal ‘slow tourism’ destination, far from the crowds of mass tourists,” Mocellin told the New Zealand Herald.
The plan calls for attracting only smaller cruise ships with less than 700 passengers and only allowing larger ships to make “technical stops.”
Just under 300,000 tourists visited the region in 2019, the last year before the coronavirus pandemic severely reduced numbers. Officials believe that number was more than enough people to maintain the beauty and delicate nature of the islands.
The limit is not to halt visitors, but to protect the region. President Edouard Fritch vouches that tourism would remain “a primary strategic consideration for the well-being of Polynesians.”
Farira’a Manihini 2027 clearly states this as a goal, noting that officials want to “diversify the different kinds of visitors, make it possible to reconcile economic growth with the preservation of the environment, the quality of life of the populations, and the appreciation of our heritage.”
According to RNZ, Tahiti Tourisme wants to reach standards set by the World Sustainable Tourism Council in order to become internationally recognized and certified as a sustainable tourism destination.
Capping the number of visitors is not a new approach for popular travel destinations. Venice, Italy, is one such location undergoing major rule changes to protect its delicate environment as well.
The new rules are not expected to include anyone with a French passport as they are not considered to be overseas visitors.