The latest statistics from the Cook Islands Tourism Corporation reveal that about 25 per cent of the total tourists arriving into the country head to Aitutaki to spend their holidays.
The figures show that in 2014, the island had 27,654 visitors, the number increasing to 29,261 last year.
Corporation’s director of destination development, Metua Vaiimene, said the second-largest island in the Cook Islands group clearly played an important role in the tourism industry.
He said the revelation that about 25 per cent of total visitors in the country visited Aitutaki also highlighted the importance of the island to the country’s economy.
Tourism, which drives the the Cook Islands’ economy, contributes about 60 per cent of the country’s total earnings. This adds up to over $200 million annually.
“As an integral part of the tourism industry it is vital that Aitutaki tourism development is managed at a pace that is economically viable and environmentally sustainable,” Vaiimene said.
“The continued engagement by Cook Islands Tourism Corporation with the Aitutaki community, through the Aitutaki Stakeholders Forum, the ‘Te Vaka O Ru’ community programme, and the Kia Orana Values Project, are processes we believe will help the people of Aitutaki manage such a pace of development.”
The Aitutaki Stakeholders Forum yesterday brought leading stakeholders, community leaders and members of the public to the Aitutaki Games Fishing Club. Aitutaki-based hotelier Thomas Koteka, who spoke on sustainable tourism, was the keynote speaker.
A range of issues were discussed in two panel discussions before participants took part in a group exercise.
Panel discussions focused on issues such as sanitation, water quality, lagoon health, water conservation, cultural heritage, land tour opportunities and event development. Vaiimene said the Cook Islands Tourism Corporation would continue to drive the industry in Aitutaki through various means to ensure it remained one of the most sought-after destinations in the international market.
“The corporation will continue to leverage the pristine environment, the rich cultural heritage and history, and natural hospitality of the Aitutakian people when promoting and marketing Aitutaki and the Cook Islands to international visitors.
“Aitutaki underscores our ‘love a little paradise’ brand and will continue to play a big part in our marketing strategy.”
Cook Islands Tourism chief executive officer Halatoa Fua elaborated on sustainable tourism in Aitutaki and challenged stakeholders to lead the way in sustainable development of the industry.
He said Aitutaki had a potential to become the leading “green destination” in the world.
- Rashneel Kumar in Aitutaki