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Cook Islands and Honolulu sign sister city agreement, eyeing tourism boost

Saturday 8 June 2024 | Written by Losirene Lacanivalu | Published in Economy, National, Pacific Islands, Regional, Travel

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Cook Islands and Honolulu sign sister city agreement, eyeing tourism boost
Prime Minister Mark Brown yesterday signed an agreement with City and County of Honolulu mayor, Rick Blangiardi to establish a “sister-city relationship”. Photo: COOK ISLANDS OPM/24060732

Prime Minister Mark Brown yesterday signed an agreement to establish a ‘sister-city relationship’ between Rarotonga, Cook Islands, and Honolulu, Hawaii, in the hope of building a stronger partnership and growth in inbound visitor numbers from Honolulu and the United States.

Brown, who is attending the 13th Festival of Pacific Arts & Culture (FestPAC) in Honolulu, signed the agreement with City and County of Honolulu mayor, Rick Blangiardi.

The agreement states that its purpose is to deepen the shared historical, cultural and ethnic ties that bind the people of each city. It also states that the people of both countries will engage in communication to create sustainable and regenerative tourism, the preservation of natural resources, fostering of cultural values, engagement in educational exchanges and sharing best practices for a mutually beneficial society.

At the signing ceremony, Brown highlighted that the week marked 53 weeks of direct Honolulu-Rarotonga flights operated by Hawaiian Airlines connecting Cook Islands with 15 United States gateways.

“We’re continuing to work hard to build back North American business, which remains in our top three main source markets after New Zealand and Australia,” he said.

“I hope our substantial presence here at FestPAC, our signing of this sister city partnership today and performances at the Polynesian Cultural Centre will support improved performance and growth in inbound visitors from Honolulu and the 15 US gateways that connect to Honolulu.”

Brown said the strength of Cook Islands and Hawaii’s relationship over the years has been in the people to people ties that have been cultivated over decades.

“We’ve a proud alumnus of Kamehameha Schools and are keen for the re-establishment of the programme with our national college Tereora.  

“We’ve a growing number of graduates from Brigham Young University, the University of Hawaii and the East West Centre – institutes whose programmes are valued by our people because of their Pacific context and focus on Pacific solutions to Pacific challenges.”

Honolulu mayor Blangiardi said the historic agreement was more than a formality; it represented a heartfelt commitment to building bridges and deepening the two country’s ties across the Pacific.

“With our shared Polynesian roots and values, this partnership feels like a reunion of extended ohana. I am genuinely excited about the meaningful cultural exchanges, collaborative economic ventures and environmental initiatives that will strengthen both our communities.”

Brown added this was a historic occasion for the Cook Islands, and he was glad that they were able to schedule the signing ceremony to coincide with this Festival of Pacific Arts and Culture Festival.

He explained that the ties that bind the Maori of Te Kuki Airani – and the Maoli of Hawaii – go back generations.  

“Those ties manifest in the centuries old, shared ocean voyaging and exploration feats of our Polynesian people that thrive still to present day in our warriors that have journeyed here aboard Vaka Marumaru Atua.”  

Brown also paid tribute to the lifetime contributions of the late Bob Worthington, who was Consul General for the Cook Islands for over a decade – his wife Jean and their family.  

He added that he recognised the descendants of the Numanga and Williams family, and various other Cook Islands families that have made Honolulu and Hawaii their home away from home.