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‘More seats for bums on planes please’

Wednesday 8 March 2023 | Written by Al Williams | Published in Economy, Local, National, Travel

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‘More seats for bums on planes please’
Graeme West, general manager Australasia, Cook Islands Tourism Corporation, gave an Australasian market update. Picture: BYRON BROWN/23030716

More seats for bums on planes to the Cook Islands. That’s the message from Aitutaki tourism operators following another Global Breakfast Update on the island.

“We need more seats to put bums on,” Tamanu Beach Resort general manager Nick Henry said. “And seats at competitive prices.” 

Henry said there is ongoing frustration among operators with flight scheduling and pricing in the international travel market across the South Pacific.    

More than 30 representatives from around the island gathered at Tamanu Beach Resort on Monday for an update on the sector.  

Cook Islands Tourism invited industry and community members to hear its Australasian team, based in Auckland, who are in the country, provide an update on developments for both New Zealand and Australian markets.

Rachel Mackey, marketing manager New Zealand, Cook Islands Tourism Corporation, addressed them on the Australasia market trends, airline capacity, marketing efforts, and what activity the industry can become involved in.  

Graeme West, general manager Australasia, Cook Islands Tourism Corporation, gave an Australasian market update.

Henry said while West and Mackey provided robust updates on marketing campaigns in the New Zealand and Australia markets, it was still costly to travel to the Cook Islands.

“Obviously the big thing is lack of capacity, affecting our ability to do better than previous figures.

“You can fly over the Cook Islands and go to Tahiti for half the price you pay to fly to Rarotonga.”

The main message attendees took away from the meeting was that 2023 would be a competitive year for tourism, he said.

“There are going to be less visitors.”

Henry said he was aware of talk of recession in both Australia and New Zealand.

“It really comes down to the simplest of numbers.”

Henry said there had been a loss of seat numbers with a predicted 134,000 visitors to the Cooks this year.

“It’s a bit less, we are not sure how it will impact Aitutaki.

“At our peak it was about 40,000 visitors annually, at 30,000, Aitutaki does pretty well

“This season is the slowest season in 10 years.”

Henry suggested the issue could be made political as there were multiple operators in the skies.

“At the moment New Zealand, the United States and Australia are looking to make commitments in the Pacific.”

He said multiple carriers were flying in and out of Tahiti. “Why not fly them here, Tahiti is full at the moment.”