French Polynesia is looking to cap the number of annual tourists allowed to come, encouraging ‘slow tourism’ instead of packed and damaged beaches.

A five-year plan called Farira’s Manihini 2027 is being enacted to protect some of the most popular islands like Tahiti and Bora Bora from ever-growing tourism numbers. The plan’s hopes are to set French Polynesia up as a boutique destination, encouraging high-value and small-scale tourism. If it works correctly, the revenue from tourism will remain the same or higher, while the numbers stop increasing.

In 2019, just before the pandemic, over 300,000 tourists visited the various islands, or a little over one tourist per resident. Farira’s Manihini 2027 would set the new cap at 280,000, or just a little lower than that, without plans to increase it.

Jean-Marc Mocellin, CEO of Tahiti Tourisme, favors the idea of a hard limit.

“The cost of getting to the Islands of Tahiti makes it an ideal ‘slow tourism’ destination, far from the crowds of mass tourists,” Mocellin said to reporters. He hopes the limit will encourage tourists to stay for longer.

The plan would also put a strict cap on cruise ships, only allowing ships with fewer than 700 passengers to dock and visit. Larger ships would only be allowed to make ‘technical stops’ such as refueling, without passengers leaving the vessels.

According to Edouard Fritch, the president of French Polynesia, the goal isn’t to undermine tourism, currently an economic mainstay of the islands, but to protect the future of the region.

Officials have written that the goal of Farira’s Manihini is to “diversify the different kinds of visitors, make it possible to reconcile economic growth with the preservation of the environment, the quality of life of the populations, and the appreciation of our heritage.”

Anyone bearing a French passport would be exempt from the cap, as they are not considered overseas visitors at all.

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