By Kristie Thong

For the first time, the Oceanic island brimming with incentive travel potential took up a spot at this year’s Asia-Pacific Incentives & Meetings Expo to showcase and promote New Caledonia as a MICE destination.

The island of New Caledonia in the Oceania region sits only three hours east of Australia, but has been a destination that has remained low on the radar until now. An overseas territory of France situated in the western Pacific Ocean, the small elusive tropical destination is a world of pristine natural beauty in the form of beaches and mountains – ideal for incentive travel planners putting together programmes with the majority of time spent outdoors.

New_caledonia_snorkelThe introduction of global hotel brands and a hike in flight capacity have prompted New Caledonia Tourism to increase efforts to promote the destination.
Accessible via New Caledonia Airport in the capital city of Noumea, the airport is served by carriers such as Air France, Aircalin, Air New Zealand, and Qantas. Groups can get to New Caledonia from the east coast of Australia (Brisbane and Sydney), while groups travelling from Auckland, Osaka and Seoul can fly via Air France. Aircalin recently announced that direct flights from Melbourne to Nourmea will be commencing this June, improving connectivity with twice-weekly flights.

A variety of accommodation is available in New Caledonia for groups, from brands ranging from the Hilton and Le Meridien to Le Lagon and Chateau Royal. Adding to the list is the country’s first Sheraton, launching later this year in Bourail on the west coast with 180 guest rooms and bungalows. It will also be featuring an outdoor function space, boardroom, exhibition space, pre-event space, and two ballrooms for large groups, while a dedicated event planner will be employed to serve the needs
of clients.

This year’s Asia-Pacific Incentives & Meetings Expo (AIME) saw New Caledonia Tourism’s inaugural participation as an exhibitor, along with a newly-appointed sales and marketing director, Caroline Brunel, who revealed that the board’s marketing campaigns this year would have a strong digital focus. New Caledonia Tourism was also joined by seven local operators, including Starwood Hotels, GLP Hotels, Ramada Plaza Moumea, ground handlers Arc en Ciel Voyages, and event management companies New Cal Events and Pop Events.
Besides AIME, other promotional efforts will include a series of roadshows across Australia, participation in The Nibbler Roadshow, as well as the JATA World Travel Fair in September.
“New Caledonia is an appealing MICE destination. This year the country is well placed to increase its visitation with the recent entry of the Hilton brand, the forthcoming launch of Sheraton into the destination, and Aircalin’s improved access all opening up opportunities for future growth,” Brunel said. m