French Polynesia to welcome tourists again in July

The South Pacific island of French Polynesia said it will reopen to international travel next month to try to salvage its vital tourism industry.

The French overseas territory halted all international flights in March in a bid to contain the coronavirus pandemic, and it has reported just 60 cases of the disease and no deaths.

But with no tourists for three months, the economy has been ravaged, and all its hotels have been shuttered, triggering calls in the industry for an easing of the virus restrictions.

“We are going to open up our country even more to save jobs,” said President Edouard Fritch, adding that nearly 19,000 Polynesians have jobs in or related to the tourism sector.

Polynesia — which boasts over 100 tropical islands stretching over 2,000 kilometres in the south Pacific — will begin opening up on July 3 when its citizens will be allowed to return and quarantine restrictions on arrivals will also be eased.

From July 15, it will once again accept international tourism from its main markets in Europe and the United States.

“We are no longer in a health emergency, but we are facing an economic and social emergency,” said Tourism and Employment Minister Nicole Bouteau.