Tourist Jasmin Banks from Auckland is soaking up the sun after a wet start to her stay. – 22082909
The country’s environment, cleanliness and weather, the friendly and welcoming local people remain drawcards for visitors of the Cook Islands, while poor public service, and stray animals are still turnoffs.
International Visitor Survey, released to Cook Islands News this week, covers
the July to September period.
There were 715 individual respondents to
the survey - representing a total of 1469 adults and 109 children.
Visitors were asked “What did you find most
attractive or appealing about the Cook Islands on your most recent visit?” The
most appealing elements for visitors were the natural environment, cleanliness
and weather (49 per cent of respondent comments), the friendly and welcoming
local people (38 per cent), the peacefulness and relaxing atmosphere of the
country (28 per cent), and the tourist attractions and activities on offer (26
A smaller numbers of comments mentioned
aspects such as food and beverage (15 per cent), accommodation (8 per cent), convenience
and safety (6 per cent), and level of service (6 per cent).
Words like ‘beautiful’, ‘warm’, ‘clean’,
‘pristine’, ‘perfect’, ‘tropical’, and ‘amazing’ were used to describe the
attraction of the local environment.
Comments people left included that the
“scenery was breath-taking especially at sunrise/sunset”, and “the reef was
well looked after and had a beautiful array of fish”.
People also left several comments about the
friendliness of the people. Key words that dominated the responses included
‘friendly’, ‘helpful’, ‘kind’, ‘welcoming’, ‘lovely’, and ‘beautiful’.
Responses included: “I love the Cook Island
people and their kind and generous approach to visitors. We enjoyed meeting
people in the market, on the bus. Everywhere!”, “The people. It’s always and
will always be the people. I love how friendly everyone is”.
Activities, attractions, entertainment, and
events featured in more than one quarter (26 per cent) of respondent comments
as the most appealing aspect of their visit.
The accessibility of water-based activities
including snorkelling, swimming, lagoon cruise, fishing/bone fishing, whale
watching, and swimming with turtles were mentioned frequently.
However, the survey also recorded a divided
response for food and beverages in the Cook Islands.
Although food and beverages were identified
as an appealing aspect of the trip in 15 per cent of respondent comments, 12
per cent of respondent comments noted that food and beverage offerings in the
Cook Islands were the least appealing aspect of their visit.
Positive comments focused on the quality
and variety of food and beverage, and fresh produce available in the Cook
Islands, but negative comments primarily focused on the limited food choice
(particularly for dietary preferences like vegan/vegetarian), the lack of local
produce (fresh fruit and fish), the price of food, and the fact that much of
the food available was unhealthy.
Accommodation received a similarly divided response,
with eight per cent of visitors recording it as the most appealing aspect of
their stay, and eight per cent saying it was the least appealing.
Meanwhile, 20 per cent of respondent
comments mentioned the destination’s public services, facilities, and
infrastructure as being the least appealing aspects of their Cook Islands
The majority of comments focused on the
arrival and departure process at the airport (eg, the waiting time and poor
organisation). Other comments focused on the conditions of the roads, the bus
services, and internet access.
One person complained: “the airport queues
while checking in and going through customs were physically painful and I
almost passed out."
There was also a lot of concern about the
presence of stray animals, with 10 per cent of commenters listing it as their
least appealing part of their stay. One person complained that they were
“attacked three times by dogs at night”, and another expressed distress at the
number of “stray dogs in Rarotonga that looked hungry and sad”.
Despite the complaints, the overall
response to the Cook Islands was positive, with nearly all visitors (94 per
cent) indicating that they would consider re-visiting the Cook Islands in the
Similarly, nearly all visitors surveyed (98
per cent) said that they would recommend the destination to their family and
Cook Islands Tourism sustainable tourism
manager Sieni Tiraa said in the wake of industry rebuilding, the areas that
will require greatest attention will be management of the quality of the
environment, ensuring community sentiment and readiness, and ensuring that the
tourism offering represents good value for money.
“It is critical that service levels meet
visitor expectations, and it is clear that there are opportunities for
improvement in this area,” Tiraa said.