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Fresh Faces: New Caledonia Tourism GM Julie Laronde


JULIE LARONDE is the newly appointed General Manager of New Caledonia Tourism, tasked with the important mission of driving international and domestic travel to the South Pacific destination. She tells us why she loves New Caledonia and why you shouldn’t be scared of travelling to a country where the locals speak a different language…

 

Where was the last place you travelled and where would you like to travel to next?

The last place I travelled was France – I was there for business in February. Aside from Australia and New Zealand of course, France is one of New Caledonia’s biggest markets, with New Caledonia being a territory of France. I visited Toulouse, Paris, Nice and Marseille to promote the destination, and caught up with family and friends in between.

I did plan to return to France in June to visit my family, however this is on hold due to the ongoing international travel restrictions.

It appears the situation in the Pacific is improving each day though, so I’m hoping I’ll be able to visit Australia or New Zealand next.

 

Besides your passport, what’s one thing you never travel without?

It sounds cliché, but my mobile phone! You could say I’m a work-a-holic, and like to be able to receive my emails and stay connected to the New Caledonia Tourism team while I’m on the go.  

Otherwise, if I’m travelling without my kids, I always pack something that belongs to them, whether it’s a cuddly toy, or their birth chain (which are little necklaces they received when they were born).

It keeps a little part of them with me wherever I go, and I think it’s a lucky charm to keep me safe when I’m travelling.

 

Why did you take up this particular role?     

I love New Caledonia, and I’m passionate about encouraging and helping others discover its beauty, people, food and culture.

Before moving into the role of General Manager, I was Deputy General Manager for 10 years.

In addition to my love for the destination, I’ve got a wealth of knowledge and experience promoting it to both domestic and international travellers, which I hope will be beneficial during these challenging times.

Myself and the team here in Noumea are committed to working with our global offices to put in place a recovery plan that supports our partners and delivers visitors with better offerings than ever before.

It might take a while, but for me, tourism is resilient and I am confident New Caledonia will see a boom in visitation.  

 

Isle of Pines

 

Tell us something people might not know/need to know about New Caledonia?

New Caledonia is more than just white sand beaches, palm trees and glistening lagoons (though these are a pretty stunning part of what people can see here!).

It’s a place of remarkable biodiversity, with thousands of endemic plants and animals – one of the reasons why six parts of New Caledonia’s lagoon were named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2008.

 

Its landscapes are so varying that you can discover what I like to say is five worlds in one trip.

 

There’s cosmopolitan Noumea, the red-soils of the Great South, the golden plains and lagoons of the West Coast, the tropics of the North and East Coast and then of course the island vibes of the Loyalty Islands and the Isle of Pines.

Each region has its own climate and unique experiences to explore. There’s really something for everyone to enjoy, no matter if you’re a relaxed or more adventurous traveller.

I think it’s also important to mention the people of New Caledonia. Coming to New Caledonia is a real human experience – you meet locals from so many different backgrounds and walks of life, yet they all love where they live and are excited to share this with others.

It’s cheeky to say, but I can’t encourage you enough to come experience it for yourself!  

 

What’s your top travel tip?

Don’t be afraid to travel somewhere just because you don’t speak the language! In my experience, the magic happens when you’re forced to communicate in other ways. You connect with others, and you have a deeper experience.

It’s important to always be respectful of customs, traditions and locals – these are often the first steps to understanding each other when language is a barrier.

I’d also say try learning a couple of words in the language of your destination. In a French-speaking country like New Caledonia, a simple ‘bonjour’ goes a long way!

 

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Written by: Julie Laronde as told to Mark Harada
Published: 31 May 2020


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