John Dunn: Now is our time in the sun

Tuesday July 28, 2020 Published in Letters to the Editor

Dear editor,

The tardiness of the New Zealand government in reinstating risk-free travel to the Cook Islands, a realm country, is inexplicable. While they dither, businesses, jobs and livelihoods are being lost.

The last remaining objection, potential mingling with transit passengers in Auckland, is patent obfuscation. Dedicated lanes in the near deserted airport, or use of the domestic terminal, is not rocket science.

Air NZ’s absence from the debate is odd and disappointing. One or two flights a day to Raro would bring them desperately needed revenue. Why are they not banging the table?

Chief executive Greg Foran’s recent weak statement that flying to the Cooks “is not that easy” to restart is shockingly defeatist.

The fact he said that at the recent China Business Forum in Auckland is highly apposite as that country will be quick to fill the fiscal vacuum created by New Zealand’s abrogation of its responsibilities in the Pacific.

The Cook Islands Government could really help by seizing the opportunity to rebrand Rarotonga as a domestic destination for Kiwis, even if New Zealand refuses to do so. Think Queenstown with coconuts.

Dedicated lanes for New Zealanders at the airport and rapid processing by customs and immigration, with relaxation of some bureaucracy, would lift the image.

I am an optimist. Once the border reopens the Cook Islands will experience a tourism bonanza. Kiwis on the street are travel starved and gagging to visit at the earliest opportunity.

Truly domestic options are limited or booked out. Even the Chatham Islands have no availability! (I know – I tried).

We must keep the pressure on New Zealand politicians but be prepared ourselves to move quickly and provide a truly high class, welcoming, service-oriented experience when the time comes.

It will prove a unique opportunity to capture all those habitual Fiji, Thailand, Bali, Gold Coast, Vietnam and Tahiti travellers for both now and the future.

The whole of Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and the Americas are off-limits. Bucket lists have been trimmed by Covid. Now is our time in the sun.

John Dunn
Owner Royale Takitumu/Motu
Visiting Surgeon Rarotonga Hospital

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