Mitiaro turns focus to domestic tourism

Monday 30 November 2020 | Written by Losirene Lacanivalu | Published in National, Outer Islands

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Mitiaro turns focus to domestic tourism
Infrastructure Cook Islands working on the Mitiaro airport runaway a week ago. Photo: LOSIRENE LACANIVALU. 20112507

With visitors from Rarotonga and Aitutaki heading to Mitiaro, the island’s mayor believes domestic tourism is what they need for much-needed economic development.

Mitiaro has been reaping the benefits of an initiative to encourage domestic travel in the Pa Enua.

And now the island’s mayor Makara Murare wants tourism to pave way for economic development on the southern group island.

The visits are part of the Southern Group Tour Package being promoted by Cook Islands Tourism and Island Hopper Vacations.

Murare said: “We are benefiting from the last three planes that arrived with local tourists. The island council benefits from the landing fee, the landowners also get a bit from the fee and the mamas can see the benefit from tourism.

Murare, who took over  the mayor’s role two months ago, said they have been off tourism for a while but they understand the importance of the industry to local economy.

“I have worked in tourism for a couple of years at the Edgewater Resort and I know it is one of the best income sources for the island.”

However instead of focusing on international visitors, Murare said they want Cook Islanders living abroad to return to their roots and help revive the local economy which has suffered massively due to Covid-19.

“It’s the people who can drive things forward and especially those who are now in Australia, New Zealand and even Rarotonga can return to their islands and build something on the islands. They would feel great having done something on their island home.”

Murare said Mitiaro had undergone infrastructure development in the last 30 years and their plan now was to focus on economic development.

He said they needed to think economically – “an area not only Mitiaro but most of the Pa Enua need to look at”.

“That is the plan we’ve got now, around Mitiaro we have done a lot of infrastructure development and for now we are just maintaining it,” Murare said. 

“We turn our focus onto economic development like tourism, because we all know that tourism is something that can help boost economic development on the island. The idea is not to get rich but something to support our people.”

Murare also hopes through tourism they would finally see a major upgrade of the Nukuroa Airport. He said the “big project” for the island would start early next year.

“It’s been here (airport) since 2001, the upgrade is timely so we can get more planes and more visitors.”