Changes in French Polynesia

Moon TahitiI’m currently updating my guidebook Moon Tahiti for publication late next year. There have been many cosmetic changes since the 6th edition came out in November 2007 but the current edition is still quite usable. I road tested it on my recent trip to French Polynesia and it seldom led me astray. Facilities on Moorea are largely unchanged except that the Sheraton is now the Hilton and a few restaurants including Le Pecheur, Maria@Tapas, Les Nouveaux Mondes, and Chez Michele have gone. My biggest disappointment on Moorea was to find Rotisserie Royal Chicken closed. I guess Alain has moved on to greater things and I wish him well.

A surprising number of Papeete hotels have gone belly up. I knew beforehand that the Hotel Royal Papeete had closed but was surprised to find the 72-room Hotel Prince Hinoi boarded up. Granted, its location next to rue des Ecoles isn’t the best. Even more surprising, the Hotel Kon Tiki Pacific was closed for “renovations”. Nothing seemed to be happening there and I hope they get their act together because the Kon Tiki is an attractive medium-priced choice opposite the new Gare Maritime. The spanking new Hotel Tahiti Nui on avenue du Prince Hinoi is open for business. I suppose they’re hoping to grab business travel market because frankly, at US$230 for the cheapest room, the Tahiti Nui is overpriced.

The Papeete hotel closures may or may not reflect the current drop in tourist arrivals to French Polynesia. During the first nine months of 2009 there was a 21 percent fall from 150,395 visitors during those months in 2008 to only 118,625 this year. Hotel room occupancies have declined from 53 percent last year to 45 percent this year. Packaged tourists from the United States are now an endangered species in French Polynesia due to the declining dollar, rising prices, and the credit card blues. Yesterday I adjusted the accommodations listings in my guidebook and a good many hotels and pensions had to be bumped up into the next higher price category. Tahiti is still a wonderful place, but bring money and lots of it.

UPDATE: In late February, 2010, it was announced that the 200-room Hilton Hotel Tahiti would close and the building would be converted into a private clinic. What next?