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‘Pearl of the Pacific’ – Cook Islands tourism needs promotional boost

Wednesday 21 February 2024 | Written by Candice Luke | Published in Economy, National, Travel


‘Pearl of the Pacific’ – Cook Islands tourism needs promotional boost
Cook Islands Tourism Industry Council president Liana Scott. 22122016

Having returned from an Australian Entire Travel Group Roadshow, Cook Islands Tourism Industry Council president Liana Scott says competition is fierce in the marketplace, and promotions need to start now.

This comes after Tourism Cook Islands announced their request for $3.5 million dollars in additional funding in the next Government budget.

The funds would be invested in optimising new flight routes, developing outer island tourism, and creating a path for diversification in the tourism sector.

Cook Islands Tourism CEO Karla Eggelton had previously told Cook Islands News: “There is no other economic industry that can support the value of tourism in this country.”

“We are the most valuable. We are the golden goose, and we need to protect it.”

Tourism brought in $355.4 million to the Cook Islands last year and making up 68.4 per cent of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP).

Scott says: “Tourism plays the biggest role in contributing to the GDP, and any expenditure guarantees a return on investment.”

“Consumer awareness is key, particularly in Australia and North America, where new flights and ports (Sydney/Honolulu) have opened up and educating the marketplace requires ongoing presence and campaigns in order to stand out against the others.”

At the end of March Rarotonga will have four direct flights from Sydney. She says: “The opportunity has really opened doors – but we need to get the awareness out there.  Just because the flights exist, doesn’t necessarily mean agents or consumers automatically know about it.  I was quite surprised how many didn’t.”

Figures from July 2022 - June 2023 show first time visitors sat at 46 percent , down from 58 percent between January 2019 and March 2020 before borders closed during the Covid-19 pandemic. The drop in first time visits means whe holidaymakers pick the Cook Islands once, more are likely to keep it as their preferred vacation destination.

“We are unique, boutique and hold strong cultural values and experiences and as one agent described ‘Pearl of the Pacific’ although at times convincing her clients to travel via Auckland and overnight was always an obstacle.”

She supports Tourism Cook Islands request, but says work needs to start now to promote the Cook Islands destination: “The sooner Tourism Cook Islands can get budget support for marketing the destination the better.  Promotions need to start now, not just in the next budget term!”