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Cook Islands tourism booms as airline reaffirms commitment

Thursday 2 November 2023 | Written by Supplied | Published in Economy, National


Cook Islands tourism booms as airline reaffirms commitment
Air New Zealand chief executive officer Greg Foran 23091001

Prime Minister Mark Brown yesterday met with Air New Zealand’s chief executive officer, Greg Foran, engaging in high-level discussions about what lies ahead for the Cook Islands and its key commercial airline partner.

Air New Zealand operates daily non-stop flights from Auckland to Rarotonga, providing the Cook Islands tourism industry with access to its leading market.

Cook Islands Tourism in a statement said the country experienced a robust year for 2023, witnessing a resurgence in business as international airlift to Rarotonga continues to grow.

Against this backdrop of positive momentum in the Cook Islands’ tourism sector, the meeting provided a valuable platform for both parties to reaffirm the strong and mutually beneficial partnership between Air New Zealand and the Cook Islands.

Key highlights of the meeting encompassed the state of Cook Islands Tourism, with optimistic growth projections.

“Air New Zealand’s vital role as the primary airline partner for the Cook Islands, particularly within the New Zealand market, which contributes significantly to inbound arrivals (constituting approximately 70 per cent of all visitor arrivals), was a focal point,” the statement added.

The meeting also delved into the newly established partnership, the Tourism Leadership Programme, designed to nurture the knowledge, skills, and experiences of talented Cook Islanders aspiring to pursue careers in tourism and hospitality.

Prime Minister Brown underscored his commitment to fostering a forward-looking relationship with Air New Zealand, emphasising the Cook Islands’ people and their environment as central to their discussions.

“From our discussion Greg and I agreed that there is indeed a strong historic tie that remains and that our product as a tourism destination remains a popular choice for Kiwis,” Brown said.

“We have common aspirations for people and place and I anticipate that alignment will assist in driving the partnership with Air New Zealand, cement tourism business, and ensure the success of our tourism future – airlift is key to this. Together, we will explore new avenues for cooperation and growth while nurturing the next generation,

preserving the unique culture and environmental treasures of our beautiful nation.”

During the Global Business Update meeting in September, Tata Crocombe, the owner of The Rarotongan Beach Resort and Lagoonarium, where the event was held, said that there needed to be better communication between Air New Zealand and the Cook Islands community.

At the meeting, Crocombe also said that it was the first time that “the CEO of Air NZ is not on the island”.

Air New Zealand’s chief customer and sales officer, Leanne Geraghty, who attended the Global Business Update, then confirmed Foran’s visit in November.

Yesterday’s meeting also follows concerns and frustrations from local tourism operators about the high cost of flying from New Zealand.

Foran had earlier said the airline is working to bring fares down, but they are unlikely to go back to pre-pandemic levels. He said that travel demand has been significant this year, which has meant higher pricing, adding that air fares have gone up 30 to 35 per cent on average since Covid-19.

Foran is accompanied by key members of the airline’s executive team, including Mat Bolland, chief corporate affairs officer; Brent Roxburgh, head of Pacific Islands; and Addrienne Tinirau-Hosking, Cook Islands country manager.