THE SOUTH PACIFIC
The South Pacific refers to that huge expanse of water more or less south of Hawaii stretching from New Guinea, Australia and New Zealand to South America. The South Seas generally include eight countries which added together cover only twenty-one thousand square miles of land, in all, one-third the size of Florida. The total population of the area is 1.3 million but it is scattered over distances hard to imagine. Tonga, spread over an area as large as England, has land a third the size of the Isle of Wight. Its population is 100,000. The fifteen Cook Islands are scattered over an area the size of Western Europe.
The jet plane made tourism as a principal industry possible for Tahiti and for the entire South Pacific. The number of air carriers to the islands and the fares charged determine to a large extent the number of visitors that arrive. A route change by a major carrier is instantly reflected in visitor arrivals. Prior to 1961, before the jets arrived, the South Pacific was exotica, only for the business traveler, the yacht people, and the cruise passenger. In 1965 Tahiti’s principal visitor was the businessman. By 1975 it was the vacationer. The most pleasurable way to see the remote islands is by cruise ship or plane. Taking the interisland ships can be torturous and dangerous. Traveling on a yacht is a great challenge but can also be hazardous.
Getting to the South Pacific is easy. Getting around within the area is more complex. The kind of planes and the flight schedules are varied, to say the least. Be they ever so humble, each nation has its own subsidized airline. Vanuatu (until 1980, the New Hebrides) has Air Vanuatu, Western Samoa has Polynesian Airlines. For Papua New Guinea, it is Air Mugini. Tiwalu, formerly the Ellise Islands, has a plane or two. Solair is the national airline of the Solomon Islands. Fiji has Air Pacific. The airline of the Marshall Islands serves those islands, newly independent in 1982. The tiny island of Nauru has invested $35 million in Air Nauru and has its own shipping line.