Ticking all the boxes with the Pacific Islands

f ever a region lived up to a picture-perfect postcard reputation, it’s the Pacific Islands – and it could very well be your next event destination, says Claire Mason

Planning your next event or conference and looking for somewhere that delivers on the 2018 business travel trends? Look no further – made up of more than 20 island groups, the landscapes, flora and fauna offered by each of the Pacific Islands are spectacular and diverse – and the experiences and cultures available for exploration are by no means homogenous either.

Go local and get personal
Pacific World, a global tour operator, identified four strong trends in MICE travel for this year – executives increasingly want a more immersive experience and would like to have a positive impact in the country they find themselves. The desire to head off-the-beaten-track as part of a conference is also a key trend in 2018. Finally, business travellers would like to interact with local communities when they travel for business. And all of this is available for visitors to the Pacific Islands.

Tania Pasi, global product development manager for Pacific World, explains: “This (last) trend is also popular with locals – they enjoy becoming the hosts and helping to design the activities.”

Doing business island-style
Evidently there is a large volume of islands, and they have a disparate nature, but three are certainly leading the charge for business travel in this region. And, ideal for event-planning EAs, you’ll find their tourism boards are helpful resources to aid planning, which is handy as you’ll encounter varying degrees of the logistics depending on the island you choose for your get-together.

Since 2016, Fiji has experienced an increase of 8 per cent business travel year-on-year:

  • Here, you’ll find global hotel chains and all the top-of-the-range of the facilities they’re known for – up to 1,000 guests can be hosted by some of these hotels; perfect for a large conference.
  • But if you’re eager to house your attendees at more local establishments, you’ll be well served with a choice of three- to five-star guest houses and hotels.
  • It’s worth noting that WiFi isn’t guaranteed here, and not all venues have conference equipment yet – so ask for what’s included before booking.
  • English is the business language and working hours are between 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday.
  • Business attire is fairly casual – a suit and tie is saved for formal occasions.
  • Greeting with a handshake is considered respectful and the business environment is patriarchal.

Tourism is worth millions each year to Tonga and business travel is a growing part of that figure:

  • This island is ideal for small events where you’ll be inviting less than 100 people.
  • English and French are the languages of business here and the working day is from 8.30am to 4.30pm Monday to Friday.
  • A suit and tie are required for business visits.
  • Six locally-owned three- and four-star hotels are located within minutes of the airport, with shuttles available to all of them.
  • Nuku’alofa is the capital, and has a population of approximately 30,000 – mobile coverage is limited to the capital city and internet access is available here (but patchy on the rest of the island) so make sure you host your event somewhere central.
  • Looking for an after-work activity to immerse the boss in local culture? The Tonga National Museum is highly regarded and near to Fuaʻamotu International It showcases Tongan pottery artefacts and hosts local music and dancing evenings twice a week.

Although all of the Pacific Islands deliver the wow-factor, a particular jaw-dropping reaction should be reserved for Bora Bora:

  • With a historical pedigree as a wedding destination, hotels and venues on the island are well-placed for running corporate meetings and events, with all the tech, lighting and AV you need.
  • The large hotels, eager for business travellers, often have professional event managers – handy for lightening your workload and getting some local tips.
  • French and Tahitian are the official business languages – but English is generally widely understood in the travel and hospitality industries.
  • Internet connectivity is good in the main resort areas and telecommunication and electrical points are on a par with international standards.
  • But Bora Bora isn’t your only option in French Polynesia – Tahiti is also well-equipped for business travel.

Getting there and settling in
The Pacific Islands cover an area larger than 10,000km and a range of carriers service different parts of the region. Be aware when booking though, that due to a high volume of tourists during peak seasons, ticket prices can fluctuate – get the boss booked in early.

Once there, if your manager or team is heading to one of the more remote islands, consider the timing of connecting flights or boat trips – a seaplane flight or speedboat transfer could be a welcome group activity but may only be scheduled once a day in some cases. So, factor in a night’s accommodation near the main airport hub if this is the case.

Also ensure the transfers can accommodate the size of the group – seaplanes and speedboats can accommodate between 8 and 20 as a general rule; some may be able to carry more.

It’s worth noting that discounts are available if you book attendees into the resorts where the conference will be held. And, again, the size of your group and early reservation will matter here.

If your conference is on one of the smaller, more remote islands, enquire about guesthouses and hotels close to the event venue. You’ll still be able to accommodate the attendees close together this way and possibly with discounts.

Out and about
The coastline and marine life of these islands offer many teambuilding opportunities, from kayaking to cruises. The spectacular scenery also lends itself to photography excursions. But, for attendees who don’t have sea legs, some of the islands are developing their own food trails and feasts on the beach, making for an unforgettable experience.

Why the Pacific Islands?

  • Variety – depending on your location, its possible to visit other islands nearby
  • Impress your attendees – it’s increasingly easy to reach but still an unexplored part of the globe
  • The feel good factor – you’ll make a positive impact on the island economies as many are developing their tourism industries sustainably to improve the lives of their citizens