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The only word that really does justice to describe the beauty of Bora Bora is “mythical,” based on the prehistoric majesty of craggy Mt. Otemanu towering over the surrounding lagoon and coral reef.
There is really no other tropical destination that can compare with the drama of Bora, at least not one with an airport.
Tahiti Tourisme feels that’s no longer enough, however, to capture the imagination of lovers who’ve traditionally flown into these islands to stay in the iconic overwater bungalows skirting the reef. The stilt villas were first invented here in the 1960s on Tahiti’s second most famous island, Moorea.
Last week, the tourism bureau launched a new “Discover Mana” marketing campaign and video promoting a more diverse island experience. It’s centered around the indigenous spirit of “mana,” which connotes an idyllic harmony of people and place.
The campaign content focuses on three legs: the overwater bungalows and the water itself, the local people and culture, and the lush palm-carpeted forests extending deep into the islands.
“The campaign is based on a desire to tell a broader story about the destination, which for years has primarily revolved around Bora Bora and the bungalows,” says Paul Sloan, CEO and director general of Tahiti Tourisme. “It’s a richer story of the destination, the diversity it has to offer, and the very strong sense of place we call ‘mana.'”
The bureau could have just flown in the world’s top social media influencers and Instagrammed the bejesus out of Bora and Moorea. That isn’t an entirely bad idea, actually. But like any destination marketing organization, it’s mandated to drive visitation throughout the entire destination by promoting the people as much as the place.
“You can’t really talk about the Polynesians without talking about their heart, so we wanted to express that in the video,” Sloan told Skift. “What we’ve found in our exit surveys, our visitors come for the postcard and palm trees, but they soon discover what makes the Islands of Tahiti special are the people.”
A Tahiti To-Do List
Most people associate French Polynesia much further west than it is. In fact, the Islands of Tahiti are positioned on a longitude slightly east of the Hawaiian Islands.
There is a map of the Pacific Ocean on Tahiti Tourisme’s website but it should be the full width of the website and designed at scale to better communicate the islands’ proximity to Los Angeles. Flight time between LAX and Papeete is about 8.5 hours.
“When people think about the Islands of Tahiti, the words they most often associate with that are ‘paradise’ and ‘exotic,’ and in their minds, in order to be an exotic paradise, it must be far away, right?” says Jonathan Reap, managing director of Tahiti Tourisme. “We tell people we’re in the same time zone as Hawaii, and then they go, ‘Wow, it’s closer than I thought.'”
Also, if Tahiti Tourisme is going to promote the islands as a more diverse travel experience, it needs to blow that out with more than a video and ad materials. This Sample Itineraries page needs to show what that diversity looks and feels like with a ton of professional content to capture eyeballs more and for longer periods of time than it does now.
Lastly, Bora and Moorea are dream locations for corporate incentive travel programs because they offer a wholly unique product that, for the most part, has been responsibly developed over the past decades. Think of a much more dramatic Maui and one without McDonald’s.
Reap told us that the islands welcomed about 3,500 incentive participants last year, but that could grow with better storytelling created exclusively for incentive travel planners.
He says, for example, there’s growing demand for combo incentive packages pairing one of the resorts with the 330-passenger Paul Gauguin or 148-passenger Wind Spirit cruise ships, so that should be front and center on the TahitiIncentives.com microsite.
At the end of the day for couples incentive programs, it’s still all about the overwater accommodations for top-producing incentive winners.
“Because the hotels are all around 100 bungalows, a group can actually buy out an entire property and really have a customized experience all to themselves,” suggests Sloan. “Our infrastructure is tailor-made for certain types of groups when you can have a property all to yourself.”
Reap emphasizes, however, that people still want the mana.
“A lot of properties are putting together cool packages that tie into feeling the mana, if you will,” he says. “From a group standpoint, I think that’s really hard to replicate in a lot of places, but in Tahiti it’s something we just do naturally.”