Last year the country welcomed a total of 161,362 visitors, while in 2016, the total number of visitors was 146,473.
Cook Islands Tourism Corporation chief executive officer Halatoa Fua said the estimated tourism receipts last year total around $345m.
He said this figure was based on an average $2150 per person spend per visit. It included a portion of pre-paid expenses, plus in-country spending.
Projections for 2017 were for moderate growth, but the actual result had exceeded expectations, he added.
Tourism growth was cyclical and while there had been “extraordinary” growth in the last two years, the level of growth would slow down given that air capacity, accommodation stock and other tourism infrastructure remained fairly constant.
“The marketing and airline investments the Cook Islands government and the tourism industry have made in the past five years are reaping rewards,” Fua said,
“Cook Islands Tourism’s role is to ensure this momentum translates into economic growth.
“Competition is becoming fierce in our key source markets and heavy investment in tourism by our competitors is strong. Visitors have an array of destinations to choose from and we must keep our foot on the pedal.”
According to government figures, visitor arrivals have consistently increased since 2014.
Fua said this was good for the economy and the quality of life of Cook Islands residents, and pointed to a need for investments in sustained marketing, airline access, destination management issues, infrastructure - specifically tourism related infrastructure, human resources and new technologies.
To sustain the year-round levels of visitor arrivals the country currently enjoyed, there was a need for reinvestment in the industry now more than ever, he said.
“The Cook Islands government is embarking on a heavy infrastructure plan that will underpin the growth of this industry over time.
“The Cook Islands Tourism Corporation will continue to work with its government partners who (can) address pressing issues like public infrastructure, sanitation, waste management, increasing (the number of) Cook Islanders in the workforce, dog and other animal welfare, crime targeting visitors and so forth.”
It was important to grow the tourism industry to be in harmony with the needs of the Cook Islands community, Fua added.
This required the help of key government departments with the right mandate to address pressing issues that affected the country’s largest driver of the economy.
“Furthermore, while we are pleased at the growth results from 2017 we must stress the need to listen to our customers,” Fua said.
“Visitors to the Cook Islands are telling us through the Cook Islands International Visitor Survey that public services and facilities and infrastructure need improvement, that the prices of goods and services are too high, that there is a growing problem with rubbish and care for the natural environment, and accommodation facilities need to be upgraded.
“We must address these issues immediately if we are to sustain our tourism industry.”
Fua said the Tourist Corporation this year aimed to maintain the levels of visitor arrivals set in 2017 or to encourage marginal growth, given that air capacity and accommodation stock remained fairly constant.