A number of accommodation managers, reception staff and special guests were invited to celebrate the special occasion.
The event consisted of a presentation on the Mana Tiaki campaign, a brief history on the programme, an overview of the three-month pilot programme which started in April this year, and an outline of the benefits to accommodators from being a part of the campaign.
Metua Vaiimene from Cook Islands Tourism spoke about how the Mana Tiaki initiative aligns with Tourism’s Kia Orana Values programme. The launch night also served as an opportunity to air the Mana Tiaki training video which included interviews with representatives from participating hotels and resorts that took part in the pilot programme
The Mana Tiaki idea was first developed by Luana Snowcroft who was working for Te Ipukarea Society as an intern in 2014, when it had the working title of Visitor Payback Scheme. The idea for the visitor payback scheme is that visitors are given an option to make a donation to go towards environmental conservation in the country they visit.
Luana conducted research by handing out survey forms to a number of Rarotonga accommodation managers and owners. This research revealed a strong support from visitors to the Cook Islands to give back to the environment which they visit and enjoy. Luana also studied overseas examples of visitor payback schemes, which have proved very popular amongst tourists. These included examples from the Lake District in the UK and the Ionian Islands in Greece. This is the first time such an initiative has been introduced in the Cook Islands.
In late 2015 Te Ipukarea Society staff Liam Kokaua and Alanna Smith began to work on an updated project proposal, with a large amount of support from executive committee member Dave Furnell and of course Luana.
The name Mana Tiaki (authority of a caretaker or guardian) was agreed on, and with assistance from Cook Islands Tourism, a strong proposal was developed for delivering to accommodations on Rarotonga.
In early April 2016 the Mana Tiaki pilot programme commenced, with four accommodations participating: Pacific Resort Rarotonga, Manuia Beach Resort, Muri Beachcomber, and Ikurangi Eco-Retreat. As of July the programme has become open to all interested tourist accommodators.
We are pleased to say that since the launch night a number of additional accommodations have joined the original four pilot accommodations.
Thank you to Moana Sands, Aro’a Beachside Inn, and The Islander for your support for our environment! We are also in discussions with other hotels and resorts in hope of enabling these establishments to join the programme.
The money raised from the Mana Tiaki programme goes into projects within Te Ipukarea Society’s five focus areas: Biodiversity, Waste Management, Youth, Climate Change, and Ecologically Sustainable Development.
We do hope to link the Mana Tiaki programme to accommodations in the outer islands next year, as well as to interested tourist related businesses such as car rentals, tour operators, etc.
For more information see http://tiscookislands.org/manatiaki.php