Greatest innovations emerge from toughest times

Wednesday March 18, 2020 Written by Published in Editorials
Showing how we can come together at a circumspect social distance are Kia orana aunties Nane Teokotai Vainepoto Papa, left, and Lydia Nga. Showing how we can come together at a circumspect social distance are Kia orana aunties Nane Teokotai Vainepoto Papa, left, and Lydia Nga. JONATHAN MILNE 20031719

EDITORIAL: It starts today. Cook Islands’ economy is all but shut down. Tourism has gone from hero to zero in the space of a few hours yesterday, and with it, the revenues that fuel government and all our businesses.

Today is when the community begins to come together – albeit from a circumspect social distance apart.

Just as the people of Rakahanga said don’t worry about us, we will survive on breadfruit and fish; just as the people of Aitutaki promised yesterday to make their island cleaner and greener and more vibrant than ever before; so too the people of all the Cook Islands will discover new, exciting ways to make this economy tick.

There were questions at yesterday’s tourism meeting at the National Auditorium about plans for rebuilding after Covid-19.

But we don’t wait till then. We start today.

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First, listen to the doctors, the virologists, the immunologists. They are collaborating with colleagues around the world to find the most effective responses to contain this virus. Get your information from them, not from the social media rants you read while reaching for another strip of your stockpiled toilet paper.

Secondly, think twice. If you’re the person muttering in the back of the room who wants to second-guess all the world’s expertise, who thinks your sports contest is more important than social distancing, or that this is just an opportunity to sell some more toilet paper – think again.

No sports team, no business, no individual wins from this. It is only together as a community that we win by fighting off this virus, battling back from the downturn, and ultimately strengthening our ties as a community.

We all understand, it would be nice if it would all go away. But wishing it away is a far less effective strategy than the concrete controls adopted by the National Health Emergency Taskforce.

Talking with Tata Crocombe outside the auditorium after the meeting, he is sombre. He knows he may have to mothball his resort on Aitutaki and his two resorts on Rarotonga. But he refuses to roll over and give up.

He gives the example of the global financial crisis, and the shift to online bookings. He tells me the greatest innovations in tourism have emerged from the toughest times

Cook Islands is small, nimble. We can innovate again. We can lead the world out of this crisis.

But we must start now.

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