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Cook Islands tourism has lost its position in Canadian market: Mani

Thursday 9 March 2023 | Written by Joanne Holden | Published in Local, National, Travel

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Cook Islands tourism has lost its position in Canadian market: Mani
Cruise ship passengers at the market. AL WILLIAMS/23030220

The Cook Islands had “definitely lost our position” in the Canadian market over the past two years, revealed Christian Mani, Cook Islands Tourism general manager for North America.

Speaking at the Cook Islands Tourism’s Global Breakfast Update at the Muri Beach Club Hotel on Tuesday, Mani said travellers from Canada still needed to book two flights, one to Honolulu and another to Rarotonga, in order to reach their holiday destination.

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.

Mani said: “Fiji has taken over. Also, Tahiti is very strong. But the one feedback our tour operators up in Canada gave us is, the long stay programme is still a lot more valuable.”

“So, it’s not all doom and gloom for the Canadian market. There is still value for us to do activity up there.”

According to a report by MMGY – which specialises in market research for the tourism, travel, and hospitality industries – a decline in the North American market was being felt across the entire South Pacific.

Mani said the report found the number of travellers interested in visiting the region had dropped 10 per cent since 2019, down to 62 per cent.

“The important thing to realise is, we do still sit up in the top three areas of travel for North Americans,” Mani said.

“Eighty-two per cent are looking for somewhere new to go. Somewhere safe, somewhere warm.”

While North American was bracing for a “mild recession” as prices stabilised following a period of inflation, “pent-up demand is real”, Mani said.

“A lot of North Americans, they haven’t travelled in two years. They weren’t spending on travel, they weren’t spending on buying new cars, so their net worth is obviously at a place where they’re able to travel to further destinations.”

The Cook Islands was an “aspirational destination”, Mani said.

“I always say, there are two absolute things you need to do in the Cook Islands – it’s either something or nothing. That sort of statement does resonate a lot with Americans.”

Mani said the appeal of the Cook Islands compared to other island destinations was the ease of travel, lack of skyrises, and how far the dollar could stretch.

Mani had promoted the Cook Islands in the USA with television spots, magazine articles, targeting online advertisements to people who are planning trips to Hawaii and Fiji, and offering travel packages for both Rarotonga and Aitutaki at exhibitions around the country.

“We’re continuously learning in terms of what consumers are looking for, so we can ensure our messaging is up to scratch.”

He had signed up for a further three travel shows in 2024 – including one in Phoenix, Arizona, which would mark the first time the Cook Islands had been promoted there. The top four most popular gateways from the USA were Portland, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle.

He would also be looking at targeting “niche markets” in Hawaii including American retirees, students, and military personnel.

The next 18 months would be crucial in convincing Hawaiian Airlines that a second flight or larger plane was needed to satisfy the demand for travel to the Cook Islands, Mani said.

Joanne Holden

Comments

John Paterson on 16/03/2023

Hawaiian Airlines does not fly to Canada. Nearest airport is Seattle. So for me to return to your island I have to use two different airlines. Westjet and AirCanada do not code share with Hawaiian. Do not expect Canadians in large numbers anymore until easier connections for Canadians.