However the Statistics Office said the figure represented an increase of just 68 people compared to December 2013.
Most of the visitors (5,681 or 56 per cent) came from New Zealand and 27 per cent (2,790) came from Australia.
Compared to December 2013, the increase was driven mostly by New Zealand tourists (up 386) with a smaller contribution from the US market (up 44).
Declines were spread across the Australian market (down 177), Canadian (down 80) and ‘other’ markets (down 115).
“For the last six months of the year, New Zealand tourism arrivals have not performed as well as we would have hoped (being 292 down on 2013), but the increase in December has brought them back up a little,” MFEM economic advisor James Webb said.
“However, the decline in Australian arrivals over the last six months (down 657 on 2013) is of most concern, as most of the growth in Australian numbers has typically come in the last half of the calendar year.”
“While the December result is encouraging, being the highest December on record, it is likely that we can expect similar slow growth or even declines going forward. Domestic retailers might find that they have to start becoming more competitive, as their customer growth is unlikely to come from an ever-expanding market like it has in the past,” he said.
“As always, destination development, improved productivity, and improving the value for money of tourism services (particularly accommodation) should remain the industry’s focus.”
Tourism Corporation chief executive Halatoa Fua said the Australian market continues to be a key focus for the Cook Islands despite a large drop in November.
“Some key destinations in the South Pacific are noticing a general drop from Australian visitors this year. The Cook Islands continues to build strong relationships with travel trade partners in Australia and the outlook is generally positive.
“The ability to hold visitor numbers from New Zealand is pleasing, given the fierce competition in this market and a reduction in Cook Islanders in New Zealand returning to the islands for holidays.
“Consumers are also being bombarded with deals to other island destinations and national airlines.”- Release