Turua last week reflected on the six-day visit to Zhuhai, China, where the Cook Islands participated in the annual Guangdong tourism culture festival.
“They invite all the provinces from around China, and then they have special invitations from outside of China. So we were invited alongside countries such as Russia and Poland,” Turua said.
“Seeing our group perform was fantastic. I think it was unique for the spectators watching them because they’d never seen drumming, never seen hula dancing like that.
“And when the drums hit, everybody came to see. They even came to the changing room to take photos of the performers.
“I think they were overwhelmed by our culture. I take my hat off to our team, it was a professional team.”
A special exhibit was also created about the Cook Islands, featuring 30 A3-sized photos that emphasised the beauty of the country.
It proved to be incredibly popular with visitors and Chinese travel agents, as the narration and information about the pictures was all in Chinese.
The delegation was also provided with brochures created by a Cook Islands Tourism employee based in Beijing, who translated the words into Chinese.
“It was incredible. If you look at all the photos of the Cook Islands, all the content was in Chinese.
“I think the first day we were visited by 100 travel agents from around China, and they were fascinated.”
At the opening of the festival, Finance minister Mark Brown, who led the delegation, made a speech about the Cook Islands 20-year partnership with China.
In addition to the culture shows and speeches, the delegation also met with officials from the Zhuhai government.
“At the moment we have a two-year programme with them, which covers agriculture, marine and culture,” Turua explained.
“So I was happy because one of the projects that I requested for our auditorium was to install two LED screens. So in May they will be here to install the screens.”
Turua said the screens could be used at international conferences, where people could be beamed into the auditorium through Skype.
Around 15 tourist agents will be coming at the same time as the screens arrive, and will be hosted on visits to Rarotonga and Aitutaki.
“They just want to scope out the scenery, the facilities, the accommodation and see what’s on offer,” said Turua. “And then they’ll go back and confirm that with their clients.
“There could be an expectation that we could see an increase in Chinese tourists, but mainly at the higher end, where they have money to spend.”
He also spoke about the potential for renewable energy improvements in the Cook Islands, as a company in Zhuhai, Gree, is one of the world leaders in manufacturing air-conditioners that run on solar energy.
“The Cook Islands has aimed to become fully dependant on renewable energy by the start of next decade, and while we would have to change our systems to accommodate (solar air-conditioning), it would reduce our carbon footprint.
“Our minister is very interested in engaging with Gree for them to look at our systems here.
“I’m in support of the idea, especially for our museum, as it could mean being able to have a permanent archive housed there, which is something that I really need.”
In the meantime, the country’s archives are deteriorating, he says as the AC cannot be on all the time in the building where they are housed. Having solar powered air-conditioning would reduce running costs and protect the valuable records.
“The other area that I’m looking at is cultural capacity training, in terms of the museum, library and archives.
“At the archives, we are getting a digital scanner so that we can copy a lot of the material in the outer islands before it is lost forever.”