The plan will see the establishment of a new Agency for Development of Tourism, which will also look at maximising the return on the destination’s booming cruise industry. Jean-Marc Mocellin, general manager of NouvelleCaledonie Tourisme Point Sud, says preparation for the strategy has been extensive, with some 150 meetings held with tourism operators, traditional and local authorities, business operators and locals. He says that in the past interest and commitment to tourism has tended to fluctuate with the price of nickel (New Caledonia’s key export industry) and has been hampered by the fact that three different regions set their own rules and regulations towards tourism. The new agency will be about driving a consistent plan and message.
Mocellin’s comments come as the destination is hosting about 50 wholesalers and tour operators from around the world, including seven from New Zealand. This market has shown 61% growth into New Caledonia over the past four years, but Mocellin says there is a need to develop new infrastructure and reasons to travel to the islands if this is to continue. ‘We need to facilitate investment and part of that will be identifying sites for small hotels. There is potential for deluxe and eco-lodges that may focus on fishing, hunting or other special interests.’ He says some 500,000 cruise visitors land in New Caledonia each year, making it France’s second biggest cruise destination after Marseille. ‘This needs to be structured and controlled. How do we get more return from cruising while considering its cultural and environmental impacts?’ Mocellin adds that developing more product and having a more robust sector will in turn attract more carriers. ‘We need at least one or two more airlines (serving New Caledonia) over the next two to three years'. • The Kiwis flew to Noumea with Aircalin.