Tourists from the cruise ship MV Amsterdam in Rarotontga. An effort to gather better stats is underway in the Pacific region to asses the industry's impact on the economy and the environment. 20022404
OPINION: Coming up with other options for our economy is important.
When all you have is a hammer then everything looks like a nail.
Don’t put all your eggs into one basket. Necessity is the mother of invention.
The glass is half full or half empty depending on your point of view.
With the world facing the possibility of a pandemic with the coronavirus (COVID-19) closing borders and reducing travelling between countries, nations dependent solely on tourism will start feeling a pinch. Here in the Cook Islands our whole economy and status of being a developed nation is based on our income from tourism as we do not earn money from any other stream. Consequently, a down turn in tourism won’t be a pinch, it will be a strangle hold.
If, we imagine ourselves in a car race game, taking the front seat point of view camera, all we will see is what is right in front of us.
If, however, we take the controls and change to an aerial view above, we might see further along the road and anticipate sharp bends or road closures.
This is not a time to panic or worry economically, this is an opportune time to change our point of view, and look for the silver lining of the cloud passing over us.
When something comes easy, you become complacent and are most resistant to change, or learning something new, especially if it means some early discomfort.
If, however, your back is against the wall and you have no alternative it can clear the mind marvelously. We are in a unique position to take the threat of lowered tourism income to grow and create other long-term dependable streams like agriculture, fishing or arts and crafts.
We live on fertile land that is hugely underutilised, in the past the government has said finding land to cultivate is hard and finding workers to work it even harder.
They have given farmers little incentive to grow and farm and no smooth pathways to selling their produce.
The call to be the Organic Farm of the Pacific and export fruit and vegetables to New Zealand over their winter months has been repeated loudly and often, culminating in the same tired excuses from government.
Meanwhile our only exporter of produce is a privately owned company growing and processing Noni juice right here in Rarotonga.
They have a unique attitude to the business and that is, to reward landowners for giving their land up for growing Noni trees.
They have set lease agreements and consistently turn overgrown, waste land, that costs the family’s money to maintain and clean every year to a beautiful, cleared, flat section that pays them a dividend for the length of the lease.
Meanwhile the company earns money by the selling of organically grown Noni to an ever, increasing market that is obsessively concerned with increasing health and wellbeing.
It’s a win- win situation - one the government could learn from and replicate.
Small and large land holdings could be utilised and instead of growing high labour intensive crops like vanilla we could rotate and manage the basic salad items like tomatoes, cucumber, capsicum and lettuce constantly demanded in countries.
Having a niche demand of organically grown produce, with tropical sun and rain, is a marketing angle that would be met with lots of interest.
No one has utilised the sun and solar power to dehydrate the bananas and pawpaw we have falling to waste off our trees.
There are opportunities everywhere if we choose to look and during this time of threatened tourism downturn, it is best to change camera angles and grow.