- The South Pacific’s leading destination for backpackers is Fiji.
- The average length of a backpacking trip is 7-10 days and the average cost of a trip is US$1,900.
- Budget accommodation that is locally owned and offers good value for money is essential.
- Flexible travel passes on a variety of local transport are a draw for backpackers.
- Backpackers tend to book flights direct with airlines, accommodation online, and ‘experiences’ with local, specialist operators or agencies.
- Accommodation is not a priority for backpackers who prefer to spend their money on activities, and while they need cheap rooms, they also want value for money that are clean and safe and have kitchen and laundry facilities.
- Hostels can be found in most South Pacific countries including: Cook Islands; Fiji; FSM; Marshall Islands; Nauru; New Caledonia; Palau; Papua New Guinea; Samoa; Solomon Islands; Tahiti; Tonga; Vanuatu.
- Other basic accommodation suitable for the market can be found in most destinations but requires some persistence to identify them.
- Good value accommodation passes are growing in popularity and are a,good way to encourage advance bookings, such as that which is offered by Mad Nights, which offers a flexible accommodation pass providing 7 nights accommodation across a range of establishments in Fiji.
Travelling between countries in the South Pacific is expensive and time consuming. Pass such as those listed below (offered in early 2014) will help backpackers explore a variety of South Pacific islands.
- Star Alliance Circle Pacific Fare: round trip air pass beginning and ending in the same country; stop off destination choices includes the Cook Islands, Fiji, New Caledonia, Samoa, French Polynesia and Tonga.
- Continental United Pacific Hopper: travels between Honolulu and Guam several times weekly, stopping at FSM, the Marshall Islands and Palau, although daily schedules and routes vary.
- Local Transport Services: backpackers will use local transport (air, bus, boat) more than any other type of visitor and require good sources of information on how to get around.
Backpacking is driven by experiences: working, volunteering, travelling, experiencing different cultures and trying new activities and there is a wide range on offer at many South Pacific destinations including:
- bilibili rafting (Fiji)
- cultural activities such as village visits, trips to schools and orphanages, crafts and weaving, and cooking lessons
- fishing – shore line and boat
- local festivals such as kava ceremonies, dancing and singing festivals, sporting events
- rainforest treks and hiking
- safari tours
- swimming, snorkelling
- waterfall swimming
- whale watching
- windsurfing and kayaking
Activities that are packaged together over a few days and include travel and accommodation are very popular with backpackers. Fijian operators FeeJee Experience and Awesome Adventures both promote Travel Passes which are popular with this market.
For more information on Diving and Cultural Heritage in the South Pacific, please consult the relevant Specialist Sections on this website.
Volunteering in the South Pacific
The key destinations that have on-going projects in the South Pacific are the Cook Islands, Fiji, Samoa and Vanuatu. Volunteers, who pay to join an expedition and remain on the project for a set period of time, can select from a range of project type such as:
- Construction projects
- Marine conservation
- Volunteer with children
- Teaching projects
- Sports projects
- Animal care
- Healthcare projects
Generally, volunteers join projects through a specialist volunteer or Gap Year operator but it is sometimes possible to find volunteer work locally upon arrival.
Opportunities for Travel Agents and Tour Operators
- Effective marketing of the backpacking activities within the South Pacific are an important way of selling the ‘experience’, not just the beach.
- An understanding of the differences between the South Pacific countries will enable selling the right place to the right person.
- Destination marketing in source markets should include potential backpackers, such as at school gap year fairs.
- Engage visitors with social media and encourage reviews and feedback.
- Produce webpages, guidebooks and promotional materials in Asian languages.
Issues in the Marketplace
- Backpacking relies on low cost travel so flexible travel passes are a good way of offering value for money to the budget conscious backpacker, and a regional transport pass would encourage international travel within the South Pacific.
- Low cost accommodation is also key. Detailed knowledge of hostels, campsites and homestays will appeal to this market.
- Ensuring local suppliers are adequately trained to effectively promote themselves overseas.