As well as not receiving as much attention as other Pacific destinations on the tourism radar, there are many myths about New Caledonia that simply aren’t true.

And it’s these false beliefs that steer some travellers away from the destination.

This is just one of the many things KarryOn learnt at the New Caledonia Rendezvous workshop in Noumea last Friday.

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Attended by key players in the Australian and NZ tourism industry and over 50 local suppliers (from accommodation, to transport, to leisure activity providers) – along with representatives from New Caledonia Tourism and GTI Tourism – the purpose of the workshop was to bring together travel partners from across the region to learn more about each other and to foster commercial relationships moving forward.

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It was also a chance for those in attendance to learn more about New Caledonia as a destination including its customs and traditions, with attendees taking part in a short tour of the Tjibaou Cultural Centre (designed by Renzo Piano) to learn about Kanak indigenous culture and mythology.

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Tjibaou Cultural Centre

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Our guide teaching us about Kanak mythology

But if there was one key message overall that came out of Rendezvous 2016 – now in its second year – it’s this: New Caledonia is a gem of a destination that oozes tourist appeal.

The only issue facing the island nation in the heart of the Pacific Ocean is one of simple awareness. More more people need to realise that there’s another idyllic holiday destination that’s truly unique just a few hours from our shores, waiting to be explored.

And many Aussies are already discovering that for themselves.

Last year New Caledonia recorded a 15 percent increase in Australian travellers to the islands. And forecasts for 2016 expect over 140,000 tourists to make their way over to New Caledonia – quite a significant number considering the population of the country is just over 260,000!

“With increased connectivity via the national carrier Aircalin, global investment and product development including the new Hilton Lifou Wadra Bay Resort, with its 50-room hotel set to open in 2019, New Caledonia has never been in better shape for tourism growth.”

Caroline Brunel, Sales and Marketing Director, New Caledonia Tourism

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But even still, it’s actually quite amazing to ponder how much New Caledonia has flown under the Australian tourism radar. But why is this the case?

As referred to in the opening of this piece, a lot of it comes down to common misconceptions about the country that push travellers away from New Caledonia to other destinations in the Pacific.

With the intention of giving New Caledonia the praise it rightfully deserves, here are five myths about New Caledonia that were debunked at the Rendezvous 2016 workshop.

 

1. False: It’s very expensive

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This may have been the case 15 years ago, but it certainly isn’t the case now.

Although it could never be described as a cheap country, hotels, restaurants and just about everything else in New Caledonia costs about the same as it does back here in Australia – except for the cheese and wine: those are a bit cheaper, and of far better quality!

A coffee will set you back about $3 AUD. A beer around $7 AUD.

This is what I learned after speaking to over 15 different suppliers at Rendezvous. The prices quoted for hotels and tours were also pretty much what you’d find back home in Australia.

For example, a Classic garden view room at Le Meridien Noumea is just $225 AUD a night.

 

2. False: No one speaks English

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Again, simply false.

Just like in nearly every other country around the world, most people know at least a basic amount of English – especially those that work in tourism and hospitality (who actually possess a rather high level of the English language).

This is another thing I learnt after speaking with so many Caledonians at Rendezvous 2016, and it’s kind of what you’d expect from a country gearing up for a tourism revolution.

 

3. False: It’s only for couples and families

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New Caledonia is indeed romantic (it must be the French influence coupled with its stunning tropical island location that does it) and great for families (it’s safe and there’s plenty to keep the kids entertained).

But New Caledonia also has lots to offer all sorts of travellers looking for a short break away.

For example:

Active types can go kite surfing in Noumea with Kitesurf attitude.

Foodies can go on a food tour with Arc en Ciel.

Nature buffs can go hiking in the north organised through Tourisme Province Nord.

Animal lovers can go whale watching with Caledonie Charter or horse riding in the north organised through Tourisme Province Nord.

Those with a green thumb can stay a few days on a farm with Bienvenue ala ferme.

Culture vultures can go native and stay with a Kanak tribe in Hienghene organised through Tourisme Province Nord.

Adventurous types can go on an epic 4-day kayak tour with Aventure Pulsion Kayak or a multi-day 4WD tour to the Grand South with Toutazimut.

And adrenaline junkies can go skydiving over Noumea or Poe (near Bourail) with Noumea Skydive.

 

4. False: It’s too far away

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This one is easy to debunk for yourself.

Simply look at a map and notice just how close New Caledonia is to Australia.

It’s not far at all, isn’t it?

New Caledonia is actually the closest Pacific Island nation to Australia, and much closer than certain other popular Pacific destinations…

Air Calin fly nearly every day from Australia, and flight times from both Sydney and Melbourne are around three hours. That’s nearly the same amount of time it takes to fly from Australia to New Zealand, and actually significantly shorter than the time it takes to fly from the east coast of Australia to Perth.

When you consider the fact that it also costs about the same to have a holiday in this unique Pacific nation that’s as beautiful as it is diverse, where would you choose to spend your holiday?

 

5. False: I can’t do my own thing

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Most people tend to lump all Pacific island destinations into the one basket: Fiji is the same as Vanuatu is the same as New Caledonia.

But unlike some of these other destinations, New Caledonia is perfect for more independent travellers who like to do their own thing.

Visitors can eat their way across New Caledonia by venturing outside their hotels to dine at one of the many excellent restaurants throughout the country; they can hire a car and drive around La Foa and the rest of New Caledonia, meeting friendly locals along the way; or they can just pick and choose their own itinerary through Caledonia Spirit and explore the country for themselves, staying at boutique hotels such as Koulnoué village in Hienghène and traditional Kanak homestays.

Yup, you can do your own thing in New Caledonia.

*Check out more photos of Rendezvous 2016 on our Facebook page.

For more information on New Caledonia visit New Caledonia Tourism’s website. And for more information on Aircalin visit aircalin.com.