New cruise regulations come into force in French Polynesia from Jan. 1, 2022. According to Tahiti Cruise Club, they are as follows:
- favor year-round turnaround ships based in French Polynesia and of small and medium capacities (up to 700 passengers);
- allow transpacific repositioning of turnaround ships with the capacity of up to 2,500 passengers (capacity of the future Papeete cruise terminal);
- for transpacific cruises, limit the capacity of the ships calling in French Polynesia waters to 3,500 passengers. Calls of larger capacity ships put stress on maritime infrastructure, services (transport and activities), as well as on the environment, which is especially the case in remote islands. Tahiti, Moorea and Raiatea will be preferred islands calls for these large capacity ships, according to Tahiti Cruise Club;
- refuse stopovers of very large capacity ships (over 3500 passengers). Tahiti Cruise Club said that their capacity and size are not suitable for the destination.
According to a press release, this positioning is the result of a shared vision of sustainable and inclusive development integrated into the 2021-2023 recovery plan for French Polynesia, as well as in the tourism development strategy, “Fari’ira’a Manihini 2025.”
Because of the strategic location of French Polynesia – in particular the Port of Papeete on the transpacific route – exemptions may be granted to vessels of higher capacity in technical transit on the islands of Tahiti, Moorea and Raiatea. These three islands can provide a call service with suitable infrastructure, Tahiti Cruise Club said.
French Polynesia temporarily stopped its cruise activity on March 11, 2020. The government is supporting the recovery of the tourism sector in the Islands of Tahiti, according to Tahiti Cruise Club.
The country’s authorities are working on developing a single portal for managing calls requests in its waters. Overseeing call itineraries and regulating visitation flow in the islands will be based on the infrastructure and services available.
In 2016, the Islands of Tahiti reached and sustained a peak of a thousand annual calls, while maintaining an average number of fewer than 500 passengers per call.
Almost 30 islands across the five archipelagos are visited by cruise ships each year and around 15 of them can base their tourism development on this regular flow of activity. Tahiti Cruise Club said that turnarounds strongly condition the country’s ability to resume its international links and tourism industry.
Over the past 10 years, the number of turnaround cruises has doubled, according to Tahiti Cruise Club. In 2019, cruises represented a quarter of the economic revenue linked to tourism (more than XPF 17 billion) and a third of Tahiti’s visitors (60,000 excursionists and 40,000 cruise passengers).
Cruise passengers flocked from cruise lines like Paul Gauguin Cruises, Aranui, Windstar, Ponant, Lindblad Expeditions, Oceania, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, Silversea and many others.
In 2019, the municipality of Bora Bora limited the capacity of the ships calling in its lagoon by deciding that the number of cruise passengers per day could not exceed 1,200. According to the press release, this showed Bora Bora’ desire to favor small and medium-capacity vessels in order to preserve the beauty of its lagoon, as well as the quality of service.