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French Polynesia Updates COVID-19 Testing and Vaccine Protocols Ahead of May 1 Reopening

U.S. leisure travelers can return to French Polynesia on May 1, but they will first need to be fully vaccinated and also provide proof of a negative COVID-19 RT-PCR test — taken no more than three days before their departure — to avoid an otherwise mandatory 10-day quarantine.

Tahiti Tourisme officials released these new testing and vaccine protocols for U.S. visitors today, two weeks after announcing French Polynesia would officially reopen to tourists on May 1.

French Polynesia closed its borders to international visitors Feb. 3, after government officials in France suspended all travel to and from non-EU destinations — except in emergencies — and extended that ban on leisure trips to France’s overseas territories, including French Polynesia.

U.S. leisure visitors looking to avoid quarantine in French Polynesia will now need to provide documentation demonstrating that they’ve received both of their Pfizer, Moderna or AstraZeneca shots — or their lone Johnson & Johnson dose — at least eight days prior to their arrival.

American visitors will also be required to complete online registration forms and show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than three days before boarding their flight, according to information released by Tahiti Tourisme officials. All travelers will then be subject to a mandatory antigen COVID-19 test at the airport after they arrive in French Polynesia, and will need to complete another self-administered COVID-19 test on their fourth day in the destination.

David Hu, president of Classic Vacations, described French Polynesia’s revised testing and vaccine requirements as “a good move.”

“These things will continue to evolve,” Hu said. “But I think this is the right first step.”

These things will continue to evolve, but I think this is the right first step.

Classic has seen an increase in both inquiries and bookings for French Polynesia since the destination announced its May 1 reopening plan, according to Hu, who said the weeks of uncertainty about when visitors would be welcomed back really dampened demand.

“After we started getting a little bit more clarity and we heard [about the reopening on] May 1, the numbers have been fantastic,” he said.

Gigi Becker, owner of Virtuoso-affiliated Empyrean Travel Management in Los Angeles, said she has also seen an increase in inquiries for French Polynesia since the May 1 reopening announcement, and has also booked new vacations, including two trips she firmed up last week.

Becker said she was happy to see French Polynesia release the updated testing and vaccine requirements for U.S. travelers, but she was surprised that all travelers, including children under 16 — who can’t currently be vaccinated in the U.S. — need to provide proof they’ve been immunized in order to bypass quarantine.

“Tahiti, in the past, was focusing on honeymoons and couples and romance, but in recent years they’ve really been putting more of a focus on families,” Becker said, noting she has a number of families with kids under 16 booked to French Polynesia in the coming months. “Summer is coming up, and there are a lot of families that are traveling. … So, the news about the vaccine requirement even for kids under 16 was a bit of a shock.”

Raschinna Findlay, a Protravel International advisor in Beverly Hills, Calif., was also caught off-guard Thursday by the inoculation requirement for all travelers who want to avoid quarantine in French Polynesia.

“It’s making it an adults-only destination,” Findlay said, noting she frequently sends families to Bora Bora. “I hope they will change that. … There are other places people with children can go without having to put up with this restriction.”

It’s making it an adults-only destination … There are other places people with children can go without having to put up with this restriction.

Home to more than 118 islands and just under 300,000 residents, French Polynesia has done a good job containing COVID-19 since closing its borders to tourism in February this year, reducing new cases to now fewer than 20 a week, Tahiti Tourisme officials said earlier this month. Vaccine distribution has also ramped up, and is now open to all.

U.S. travelers looking to fulfill the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention requirement that residents provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test before returning home can take advantage of a testing facility open daily at Faa’a International Airport in Papeete, according to Tahiti Tourisme officials.

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