In the time it takes to watch the latest Star Wars film, you could fly to New Caledonia and be sipping French wine by a UNESCO world heritage listed-lagoon.
That’s why more and more Aussies are ditching Saturday nights in for long weekends in the South Pacific destination.
Australia’s nearest neighbour is just a two and a half hour flight away, prompting travellers who may have traditionally stayed closer to home for long weekend trips, to hop on a plane instead, according to New Caledonia Tourism (NCT) director Jean Marc Mocellin.
In 2014, Aircalin launched three times weekly direct services from Melbourne to the destination’s capital Noumea. It also flies six times weekly from Sydney and three times weekly from Brisbane.
The increased air capacity has made it even easier for Australians to discover the South Pacific destination, Mocellin told KarryOn.
“The Australian market in particular has grown over 50% over the last four years,” he said.
But it’s not just about proximity.
Mocellin highlighted the country’s French influence as a major attraction, along with its world class golf courses and natural assets like its lagoon and reef which is the second largest in the world after the Great Barrier Reef.
Those with a little more time on their hands can discover its diverse landscapes and seek out immersive experiences with the country’s French rural settlers or Indigenous Kanak tribespeople.
In just a week, Mocellin suggested travellers could take in the cosmopolitan capital of Noumea, the laidback island vibe of the Loyalty Islands and the wild bush terrain of Bourail.
“In New Caledonia, there’s a real change of approach to tourism and we’re becoming really serious about it,” Mocellin said.
As a result, there has been significant investment in revamping hotels around the destination as well as new additions like the Sheraton Deva in Bourail.
Later this year, NCT will also shift from being solely a destination marketing agency to becoming an agency capable of actually managing tourism.
The trade specific website and e-learning platform are being revamped to ensure that travel agents have access to the latest information about the destination and are abreast of all the exciting changes.
To this end, NCT will also run a mega famil for agents in September this year.
“It’s just really good way for travel agents to understand New Caledonia,” NCT’s Australia director Caroline Brunel told KarryOn.
Not only will it give NCT the chance to showcase recent changes and developments, but it will also help address concerns that it is an expensive destination.
“It’s not a cheap destination,” Brunel admitted. “But there are many ways to make money go further.”
These include visits to the local supermarkets, packed with French goodies, and also by opting for self-contained accommodation in Noumea close to the lagoon.
Do you fancy a long weekend in New Caledonia?
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