American Express facilities have been offline since July 10 and the Pacific Resort Hotel Group says over 200 of their guests staying at the company’s three resorts have been affected.
Operations chief Marcus Niszow says in addition an unknown number of customers have switched destinations as a result of this issue, resulting in a net loss of GDP for the country.
“The lack of urgency and action on behalf of American Express to re-establish merchant services in the Cook Islands shows a lack of commitment to customer care towards their own cardholders and members – many of whom have already expressed their disappointment in American Express to us directly.”
According to Niszow it’s not regular cardholders they’re talking about, but PRHG customers holding American Express platinum, centurion and corporate cards. American Express services were terminated here when Westpac ceased operations. Those services were expected to be transferred from Westpac by American Express to Bank South Pacific. BSP manager David Street said in July that despite both banks actively pursuing this change with American Express in the months leading up to the purchase, Amex had yet to complete the process.
“It’s been over three months since American Express services were terminated in the Cook Islands and there is still no clear or firm commitment from American Express or BSP as to a date when the service will be restored. “All we know is that BSP and American Express have signed an agreement but we have been kept in the dark by both camps in terms of an actual implementation date.”
The BSP manager did not respond to emailed questions.
Niszow says their demands for an “immediate interim solution” have been ignored and is having a ‘detrimental impact on American Express customers visiting the Cook Islands, leaving many to question the level of commitment from American Express towards its cardholders, customers and partners’. He says a prerequisite for participation in American Express travel programmes is to accept American Express cards as a form of payment.
“This situation means that our hotels and any other businesses participating in these programmes are currently offline and missing out on bookings through these channels.”
The Cook Islands Chamber of Commerce is also unimpressed with the current lack of American Express services.
Newly-elected president Steve Lyon says the credit card giant is a key payment tool, particularly for US corporate and business users.
“As we look to grow our tourism business from North America, and with the favourable exchange rate there is a great opportunity to do so, but it’s likely we will lose out on bookings simply because Amex is not accepted.”
Lyons says while it’s essentially a banking issue, the lack of resolution is going beyond that now, and it’s time government had more to say on the matter.
“There is no doubt we will be missing out on high end bookings as a result of this and that is of direct economic interest to the government.”