Former United States president Barack Obama and his wife Michelle recently spent time in Tahiti and its islands where they met up with celebrity superstars Oprah Winfrey, Bruce Springsteen and Tom Hanks.
That saw the territory’s islands, beaches and azure lagoons splashed across magazines, websites and social media pages across the world.
A spokesperson for Tourism Tahiti, Robert Thompson, told Radio New Zealand, the high profile visits brought a surge interest in both the traditional and online social media which French Polynesia is hoping to capitalise on.
“It’s fantastic coverage for us really. It gives us the opportunity to speak to a lot more people than we normally would as a little island nation.
“The coverage has been fantastic. We do tend to have quite a few celebrities visit, it’s just that this one – the Obama family – seemed to go a bit more viral, and gave us a bit more coverage.”
RNZI: Do these kinds of things, where Oprah posts a tweet, does that actually trigger interest in visiting there? Do you get an increase in inquiries from these kinds of things?
“Well we’ve definitely, in the last couple of weeks, fielded phone calls from the general public asking us to, you know, explain which resort is what in a photo that they might have seen on Twitter or Instagram. So yeah, it does increase the interest, for sure.”
RNZI: Is there any way you’re looking to capitalise on this?
“Of course. I mean we will often have situations like this where there is public relations and marketing around people that are visiting here and we’ll just make sure they understand that it’s accessible to them – ordinary people – as well.
“One of the problems we have when we have such wealthy or famous people there is that it makes people believe that it might be unattainable for them, whereas there are a number of options, obviously, that might not be at the same price point as those particular properties, but there’s one down the road that’s just as nice.”
RNZI: The past few years for Tahiti tourism, there’s been a bit of a flat line. The French Polynesian government has sought to give it another boost. Is this helpful in that effort?
“Yes it is. We’ve had a number of situations like this over the last few years that has given us increases in visitors.
“While overall we’ve been more or less on an increase over the last four or five years, and actually out of New Zealand the increase has actually been slightly ahead of the global average, I think off the top of my head we’ve seen around a four to five percent increase per year for the last few years.
“I mean, it all feeds in to that pipeline of interest for the destination.” - RNZ
RIGHT: Barack Obama gets into the Polynesian spirit of things in Tahiti.