“The not-too-distant future,” says Cook Islands and Pacific Tourism boss Halatoa Fua.
“We’re taking it step by step, it will take time,” says New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern.
“The best case is August for New Zealand tourists, December for Australians,” says resort owner Tata Crocombe.
As Australia and New Zealand press ahead with their plans for a trans-Tasman bubble, Cook Islands Tourism say it’s looking forward to hosting Kiwis and Aussies back in the country.
Ardern said she would include the Pacific in “bubble talks” with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. When those two countries had agreed safe plans, they would be talking with Pacific neighbours.
“It is in our mind, but it is just taking it step by step, it will take time,” she told Radio Tarana.
As interim chair of the South Pacific Tourism Organisation, Fua said he was closely following those discussions. They knew how much New Zealanders and Australians like to holiday in the Cook Islands, and they had constituted 85 per cent of visitors.
“Our visitor industry is looking forward to hosting them again. But safely.”
Australian commentators have been talking up the possibility of including Fiji in the bubble, and then Cook Islands. Fiji’s minister for civil aviation Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum had contacted Ardern and Morrison, asking for that country to be included.
But sources said New Zealand would always put the realm nations first.
Tata Crocombe, owner of The Rarotongan and two other Cook Islands resorts, said tourists would need “virus visas” showing they had tested clear of Covid-19.
He agreed New Zealand would put the realm nations first. “We have to be in the Australian-New Zealand bubble, there’s no choice about it,” he said.
A report by Australia’s Development Policy Centre says Cook Islands has the most to gain from any travel bubble with Australia and New Zealand.
In 2019, 1.5 million Australian residents visited New Zealand, and some 1.3 million New Zealanders visited Australia. –