An Air New Zealand flight leaves Rarotonga for Auckland in July in 2021. DANILO REYES/ISLAND CAPTURE.CK/21071648
Tourism operators are preparing for a quiet few months, as visitor numbers drop as predicted.
In November there
were 10,278 visitors to the Cook Islands, a drop of about 24 per cent compared
to October (12,803 visitors).
July to September quarter registered 43,244 visitors, compared to the pre-Covid
peak of 58,744 visitors for the same period of 2019.
statistics released to Cook Islands News show a downturn as tourism operators
express concern about what they could be in for over summer.
owner Paul Ash said he was not surprised by the drop in numbers.
“If anything, I
expected worse,” Ash said.
“I’m hearing lots
of businesses are operating at only 30 per cent capacity, and you can’t do much
on that. We’ve already reduced our staff hours for December, and we will be
monitoring everything on a weekly basis. Your fixed costs don’t change.”
Tourism Industry Council president Liana Scott of Muri Beach Club Hotel, said
members were certainly feeling the effects of quieter arrivals and were already
giving staff additional days off or releasing staff.
is going to be crucial for this downtime, and there are more specials out in
the market to try and capture what little of the market there is presently,”
frustrating is how there are no seats available on the flights. The first
availability is December 28, with a one-way premier economy price of $1072 and
next availability being seat-only from December 30, and an airfare one way of
“The lack of
availability and airfare cost is really off-putting to potential travellers,
and this is really hurting our already anxious market.”
and Spa chief executive Andrew Whittaker said the numbers “sounded about
“It’s all to do
with flight availability. There simply aren’t the flights coming in at the
moment,” Whittaker said.
Asked whether the
resort would soon be reducing staff hours, Whittaker said they would try their
best to maintain staff at the same levels.
“We expect it will
be really quiet from January to March, but hopefully once the new flights
arrive, things will pick up,” he said.
The Islander Hotel
and Restaurant owner Rohan Ellis said the business would need to reduce staff
hours heading into January and February.
“But we always
knew it would be coming. It’s no surprise the number of visitors dropped,
there’s been a downgrade in flight capacity from Air New Zealand,” Ellis said.
Ellis said it hoped
to see signs of rebuilding in the later part of the first quarter of 2023.
temperatures drop in New Zealand, that’s when we see them come to Rarotonga,”
Ellis said he
hoped the arrival of Hawaiian Airlines in May would bring back some of the
North American market.
with one flight per week, by the end of 2023 we will see them go to three
flights a week. Their approach has been very shrewd,” he said.
Chamber of Commerce chief executive Rebecca Tavioni said she was surprised the
drop-off wasn’t higher.
“I’ve been hearing
a lot of anecdotal examples of businesses struggling during this period,”
capacity is about 30 to 35 per cent during this period, I’ve heard stories of
businesses dropping below 20 per cent.”