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11 November 2022

‘Still undiscovered’: Rebuilding North American tourist market underway

Wednesday 8 March 2023 | Written by Joanne Holden | Published in Economy, National, Travel

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‘Still undiscovered’: Rebuilding North  American tourist market underway
Christian Mani, Cook Islands Tourism general manager for North America, spoke at the Global Breakfast Update on Tuesday. Mani says the Cook Islands are ‘still undiscovered’ by the majority of North Americans. Joanne Holden/23030717

Less than half of the travellers booked to fly from Hawaii to the Cook Islands when the route opens up in May are from mainland United States, despite the flights creating a gateway between the island nation and 15 North American cities.

How the country’s tourism industry plans to rebuild its North American links after the market ground to a halt in the wake of Covid-19, was outlined during Cook Islands Tourism’s Global Breakfast Update at the Muri Beach Club Hotel on Tuesday.

“We’re still undiscovered by – if not all – the majority of North Americans,” said Christian Mani, Cook Islands Tourism general manager for North America.

“We’re up against big destinations. Tahiti, Fiji, Maltese, Seychelles, Caribbean. So, it’s important for us to go direct to the consumers and inspire them to choose this destination.”

Mani said the corporation was focussing on developing partnerships with influencers; educating the “travel trade” including tour operators, travel agents, and travel wholesalers; keeping the country’s online presence “fresh” with new content; and leveraging the operating airlines in order to rebuild the market.

The connection with Honolulu via Hawaiian Airlines, which begins on May 20, replaces the pre pandemic flight between Los Angeles and Rarotonga as the island nation’s link to North America.

The new schedule will see the plane bring visitors into Rarotonga on a Saturday and fly them back to Honolulu on a Sunday.

“What this schedule has given us is, it has exceeded the number of nights,” Mani said.

“With the previous operating airline, we were only limited to five nights and six days. This opens it up to seven nights and eight days. We’ve never had this before.

“Also, we can now look at opportunities to combine with another island. We can do five nights on Rarotonga, three nights on Aitutaki, or mix it up with one of the other Pa Enua.”

There will be 189 seats on the Hawaiian Airlines plane landing in the Cook Islands each week, but Mani expected “a slightly lower number” to be filled because of weight restrictions imposed to cope with the long distance and rising prices of fuel.

About 65 per cent of bookings on Honolulu to Rarotonga flights had been made by people living in Hawaii, the rest coming from mainland USA with a free stopover in the Hawaiian city.

“It is okay for right now, but we need to drive the bookings to the Cook Islands from mainland USA,” Mani said.

  • More from the Global Breakfast Update in tomorrow’s edition