Tough Times in French Polynesia

French Polynesia's hotels are feeling the brunt of the recession with occupancy rates down around 20 percent from a year ago. In January, 2009, the hotel occupancy rate was 36.11 percent, compared to 59.96 percent for all of 2007. In 2008, 196,486 tourists visited French Polynesia, the lowest level since 2002 when there were only 189,030 arrivals due to the travel slump after 9/11. In 2007 French Polynesia received 218,241 visitors.

Air Tahiti Nui - reeling from losses caused by low passenger loads - is discontinuing its nonstop service from Sydney to Papeete. Beginning this year, the airline's nonstop New York to Papeete service will operate from June to October only. The luxury cruise ships are also leaving. In December, 2008, the 670-passenger Tahitian Princess abandoned its homeport Papeete after cruising French Polynesia for six years. The number of cruise ship passengers dropped 20 percent in December from the level the year before. Meanwhile, the 330-passenger Paul Gauguin and 170-passenger Star Flyer continue to sail from Papeete.

UPDATE: Princess Cruises has announced that they will be operating the cruise ship Royal Princess out of Papeete from September 14, 2010, to May 8, 2011.

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