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Weather, welcoming people win with the tourists

Wednesday 28 December 2022 | Written by Matthew Littlewood | Published in Local, National, Travel

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Weather, welcoming people win with the tourists
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.

The latest 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 per cent).

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 experience.

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 future. 

Similarly, nearly all visitors surveyed (98 per cent) said that they would recommend the destination to their family and friends

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.