NELSON LÉVY, FOUNDER OF AIR TAHITI NUI AND ONE OF TAHITI'S MODERN TOURISM PIONEERS, DIES AT AGE 58
LOS ANGELES, CA, June 5, 2007 – Nelson Lévy, who spent the past 15 years as one of French Polynesia's modern tourism pioneers, revamping the tourism office, founding and running Air Tahiti Nui and launching Tahiti's biggest virtual travel agency, died Sunday of a heart attack just hours after he held a barbecue at his home for the employees of easyTahiti.com. He was 58 years old.
Lévy took over the management of the Tahiti Tourism Promotion Office in January 1992 and led its transformation to what is today known as the GIE Tahiti Tourisme, the Papeete-based tourism office that operates the worldwide promotion of Tahiti and Her Islands. After founding Tahiti's international airline in 1996, he left Tahiti Tourisme in August 1998 to become the first CEO of Air Tahiti Nui.
“Nelson was a remarkable man and will be deeply missed. He was an industry leader, visionary and innovator, persevering against many odds to found Air Tahiti Nui and make Tahiti the tourism destination it is today,” said Nick Panza, Air Tahiti Nui’s Vice President - The Americas.
French Polynesia Government President Gaston Tong Sang was among many people in Tahiti and overseas who paid tribute to Lévy on Monday as the family made plans for funeral services and burial on Wednesday morning.
"The world of Polynesian tourism is in mourning with Nelson's departure," Tong Sang wrote in a message of condolence posted on the French Polynesia presidential website. "It would be difficult to summarize in a few words the overall career and life of such a man appreciated by everyone for his kindness, attentiveness, his devotion and his courage," Tong Sang wrote.
Lévy’s latest venture was the specialist website easyTahiti.com, which just launched June 1.
Nelson Lévy is survived by his wife Vaea and two daughters Vaiarava and Poerava.
Air Tahiti Nui, the leading carrier to French Polynesia, has headquarters in Papeete and operates from Faa'a International Airport on the island of Tahiti. The company was founded in 1996 and commenced flight operations in 1998. Air Tahiti Nui won the award for "Best Onboard Service for a Smaller Airline" from the 2006 Skytrax airline survey and Global Traveler's "Best of 2005" reader poll ranked Air Tahiti Nui the number two "Best Airline in the South Pacific, Australia, and New Zealand," and sixth for "Best Onboard Service" in the worldwide category.
For information on schedules and fares call toll-free 1-877-824-4846, or visit your local travel agent, or Air Tahiti Nui online at www.airtahitinui-usa.com.