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Wednesday 3 January 2024 | Written by Losirene Lacanivalu | Published in Economy, National


Cook Islands Tourism rakes  in 75% of GDP
Visitors ready to explore Rarotonga on Sunday. 23121822

Tourism’s contribution to the Cook Islands’ gross domestic product (GDP) for the last quarter of 2023 (October-December) was estimated at 75.4 per cent, according to the Ministry of Finance and Economic Management.

This figure follows reports from Flight Centre in New Zealand, which experienced an 80 per cent surge in bookings to the Cook Islands and Fiji over the past three months.

Heidi Walker, Flight Centre’s general manager, told Tim Dower of NewstalkZB that they saw an 80 per cent surge in last-minute bookings in the three months leading up to Christmas, compared to a 15 per cent increase over the same period last year.

Walker attributed the surge to Kiwis’ desire for island getaways, sunshine, and creating memories.

She emphasised the Cook Islands’ welcoming atmosphere and dependence on tourism, adding that they see positive signs for airfares in 2024 and anticipate further sales in the New Year.

Cook Islands Tourism chief executive Karla Eggleton said they need to prioritise continued investment in the country’s single and only significant economic sector.

“This will mean giving the Tourism sector, the people and the businesses that make it happen more support in the coming years.”

Eggelton said the visitor forecast for the Cook Islands for 2024 is positive, but Cook Islands Tourism needs to focus on developing a medium-term strategy for 2025 and 2026.

“These things take time, and we should look at ways now to ensure that we work together to future proof business so that we can ensure its continued success,” she added. 

Andrew Whittaker, CEO of Island Hotels Limited, parent company of The Edgewater Resort and Club Raro, reported Christmas Day and Boxing Day were bustling with diners and saw strong occupancy rates thanks to staycations and returning Cook Islanders.

The New Year was also shaping up to be very promising, Whittaker said last week.

“We will be continuing to invest in the Resort’s especially with the infrastructure at the Edgewater.”

The Tamanu Beach Resort in Aitutaki has enjoyed 90 per cent occupancy since Christmas and expects it to continue until January 6.

Resort general manager Nick Henry said their Island Night event on December 27 was a complete sell-out, with the restaurant buzzing with activity on Christmas and Boxing Day as well.

“The hotel is bustling at the moment with families from New Zealand and Australia – some are Cook Islanders who are home for a break.”

Henry said the resort will experience a slowdown after January 6, 2024, giving the team a chance to “catch their breath and have a break”.

He said the island’s beaches are full with people and lagoon cruises are pumping at the moment.

“It has been a ‘full-on’ season since the end of April. We wonder where the year went ...”