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New Caledonia: Australasian agents still stuck in Noumea, but are safe

While the civil unrest in New Caledonia continues to evolve, Australian and New Zealand travel agents and professionals remain stranded in Noumea.

While the civil unrest in New Caledonia continues to evolve, Australian and New Zealand travel agents and professionals remain stranded in Noumea.

With the country’s main gateway, La Tontouta International Airport, still closed, leaving the country has been all but impossible. 

However, a large group of New Zealand travel agents and a few Aussie agents remain safe, albeit locked down, in capital Noumea. 

Speaking to Karryon, New Caledonia Tourism representative in Australia and New Zealand, Caroline Brunel, said NZ agents attending a World Travellers conference in Noumea were due to leave the country the day after the civil unrest broke out. And while everybody is “getting impatient to leave”, Brunel says they are being looked after at the Hôtel Château Royal. 

Noumea, New Caledonia.

Two New Zealand travel agents confirmed to Karryon that they are still stranded in New Caledonia, but are safe.

Australian agents are among “quite a few people” that are stuck – although only the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) can say how many Australians are stranded in the country in total.

Brunel says New Caledonia Tourism is devastated by the situation, but is hopeful that with some time, it will be able to rebuild confidence among Aussie travellers.

“We’ll have to have a good strategy in place to encourage Australians to come back,” she added. 

But the country successfully rebuilt tourism after the COVID pandemic – and last year even welcomed more Aussies than ever before, with more than 30,000 travellers visiting the country.

Whilst it will take a lot of work to repair the country, the tourism industry will “play a big role in its recovery”, Brunel tells Karryon

“We need to wait for things to quiet down now.” 

And they might be already. Brunel’s colleagues told her Monday morning that the last two nights have been a lot quieter. 

“I think the presence of the army has helped a lot,” she adds. 

“Some businesses are starting to reopen… slowly, slowly getting back to a normal situation.”

Tontouta International Airport (Image Mark Harada) New Caledonia
Tontouta International Airport (Image Mark Harada).

But the big news for travellers in New Caledonia will be when the airport reopens. Sadly, there’s no word yet on when that could be. But there’s light at the end of the runway.

“The High Commissioner needs to give the green light for the airport to reopen,” Brunel says. 

“The sensitive point was the road to the airport that needed to be protected… that’s what they’ve been doing for the last three days. I think now they’re at a point where the road is secure. I think it [the reopening] will come soon.”

However, there has been no update from the airport, while Aircalin continues to advise that “due to the closure of Tontouta airport announced until 21st of May, Aircalin cancels all flights from/to Nouméa”. 

Karry On - Aircalin Sale
Aircalin is the country’s national carrier.

Meanwhile, DFAT continues to advise Australians to “reconsider your need to travel for metropolitan Noumea due to civil unrest, travel disruptions and limited essential services”. 

“We continue to advise exercise a high degree of caution elsewhere in New Caledonia due to protests and travel disruptions,” it says on its Smartraveller website.

“Australian officials are in close contact with authorities in France and New Caledonia about options for Australians to safely depart and continue to pursue approvals for Australian Defence Force flights pending commercial flights resuming. French authorities advise the situation on the ground is preventing flights and are providing regular updates.

“If you’re an Australian citizen or permanent resident in New Caledonia, register your location and contact details with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s crisis registration portal. 

“The Australian Consulate-General in Noumea premises is temporarily closed. Australian officials remain in Noumea. Australians needing emergency consular assistance should contact the Australian Government’s 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on 1300 555 135 (within Australia) or +61 2 6261 3305 (from overseas).”