Here for ‘peace, quiet and warmth’, first visitors say

Tuesday 18 May 2021 | Written by Alana Musselle | Published in Local, National


Here for ‘peace, quiet and warmth’, first visitors say
Cook Islanders happy and eager to welcome their first visitors in over a year. 21051730

The first tourists in 14 months were welcomed at Rarotonga Airport yesterday by cheering locals, many too excited to contain themselves.

Laughter, hugs, and some tears were shed as visitors were finally welcomed back after what was for many a long and painful wait.

The fresh scent of flowers from countless head and neck ei filled the air, which seemed to shake to life the international arrivals area which had not seen this much life and colour in a long time.

Some wary locals hung back, a little apprehensively, and kept their distance with a face mask at hand, something that Covid-free Rarotonga – unlike the rest of the world – has had no need for, until now.

Two hundred and ninety-seven (297) passengers arrived on yesterday’s flight, each welcomed with a hearty cheer from Rarotonga residents as they walked through the door.

The first two people to step through the airport doors were Debra Mei and Clarke Truscott who weren’t planning on wasting a single minute of their holiday and rushed to secure some means of transportation from one of the rental companies on site.

The first two tourists to walk through Rarotonga Airport’s doors, Debra Mei and Clarke Truscott - 21051727

“It is so awesome to be able to be here. Last year was pretty tough on everybody not being able to go anywhere, so we are so excited to finally be able to enjoy a tropical holiday once again,” Mei said.

Each person arriving was greeted first by the iconic aunties, Nane and Lydia, representatives of Cook Islands Tourism, and then by the team at CookSafe who worked diligently to ensure everybody signed in with their CookSafe cards and that nobody drove out of the airport without first following through with each of the Covid-19 precautionary measures.

Michael and Lesley Pether from Auckland have been eagerly waiting to come to Rarotonga since Covid-19 forced the country’s borders to shut on New Zealand and the rest of the world.

They will spend eight days in total on holiday, staying a few days at the Little Polynesian Resort and then travelling to Aitutaki for the remainder of their holiday.

They said they are most looking forward to the “peace, quiet and warmth of the Cook Islands”, and were glad to finally get away from blustery Auckland which was howling with wind and rain yesterday morning when they left.

The couple, who are first time visitors to the Cook Islands, were greeted by a wet, gloomy weather in Rarotonga yesterday but are optimistic for some sunny days ahead.

Also arriving on the flight was the first group of the New Zealand Medical Assistance Team (NZMAT) who are here to help with the rollout of the Covid-19 Pfizer vaccine.

NZMAT will be stationed at the Rarotonga Hospital and will be working with Te Marae Ora over the next six weeks to administer the vaccine to the eligible population.

Visitors from New Zealand arriving on Monday’s flight. 21051731

“While we are confident to reopen our borders to New Zealand, we must emphasise to all our visitors, and to tourism operators, the importance of applying pragmatic physical distancing and good hygiene measures,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs wrote in ‘The Cook Islands Promise,’ a joint commitment to protect all Cook Islands residents and international visitors from Covid-19.

It has certainly been a rollercoaster ride for both sides of the bubble during the border’s closure.

New Zealanders who have been confined to their own homes and their own shores for so long will finally be able to visit their Cook Islands friends and Cook Islanders will now at least be given the opportunity to begin their financial recovery processes.

Despite differing views on whether or not they are in favour of the borders opening, everybody present at the airport could not help but offer a warm Cook Islands welcome and a smile to visitors, and a heartfelt ‘Kia Orana’ once more.