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High hopes for 2023

Saturday 31 December 2022 | Written by Al Williams | Published in Economy, Local, National


High hopes for 2023

Small business operators on Rarotonga have given 2022 a thumbs up following a challenging couple of years. They are positive going forward to 2023 despite ongoing uncertainty, Al Williams reports

Cook Islands reopened for business in 2022, after a two-way quarantine-free travel bubble lasted just three months in 2021 before authorities pulled the pin due to Auckland’s Delta outbreak.

It was a sigh of relief for many, following a tough couple of years.

The road ahead continues to look testing, but our people remain resilient and appear to be keeping their chins up.

While there is talk the economy may be stung by a forecast recession in New Zealand, Cook Islands News has gauged confidence from small business owners on Rarotonga.   

That confidence is backed up by survey figures released just last week which show visitors are spending more, staying longer and encouraging more people to come to the Cook Islands.

There is also the repeated message of thanks from retailers to loyal local customers.

On Friday, Cook Islands News spoke to a number of people working in retail and asked for their reflections on 2022 and their thoughts for 2023.

At The Café, owners Ian and Clare Wheeldon said 2022 was very positive.

“When the borders opened, the island went ballistic,” Ian said.

“Everything is now going in the right direction.”

He joked that he would like to retire in 2023.

“Failing that, if things carry on the way they are, then I’m perfectly happy.”

At the Bus Stop Café in town, staff were winding down for the end of the year.

Manager Monique Yates said 2022 had been good, specifically with ongoing support from locals throughout the year.

“We would like to thank everybody who supported us,” Yates said.

“In 2023 we are looking forward to a prosperous New Year, for everybody to be happy.

“We are looking forward to seeing our regulars again.”

Around the corner at Tav Pacific, front of house staff member Felicia George said 2022 had been a great year.

“We have been really busy.”

George said, as a long time employee, she had taken on new responsibilities this year.

“Learning new things and working towards long term goals.

“I’m looking forward to more opportunities and progressing in my personal and professional life.”

George said the business is expanding in 2023 with new export markets across the Pacific and into the United States.

At Kai & Co, in the Punanga Nui Market, manager Maryanne Short said business had been “full on” with the return of visitors in 2022.

“Even our locals have been awesome.

“We are more than positive going into 2023.

“Thank you for supporting us; our owners are on holiday so I’m holding down the fort.

“We have a great team of seven people.”

Just along the road at Palace Takeaways, Madison and Nicole Nicholas were also dealing with a steady stream of customers.

“It’s (2022) has been good, there’s always good support,” Nicole said.

In terms of 2023 . . . “I haven’t thought that far ahead,” Nicole said.

“It’s only next week.”

Annie Maoate and Metua Napa, just along the road, said it was their eighth week selling pineapples.

“It’s been very good, we will keep working into 2023,” Maoate said.

“Thanks to the locals for their support.”

 Ashley Chaloner at Stacks Café said 2022 was an improvement on 2021.

“It’s been good; we haven’t been affected by Covid-19.

“I’m not sure about 2023; I’m just going with the flow.”

Head chef at Soul Café Adesh Kumar, said there are plans in the pipeline to extend the business opening hours in 2023 and open for dinner.

“It is looking good.”

Along the road at Love Café, front of house staff Noaher Scott and Iva Piakura said it was “coffee, coffee, and more coffee.”