Prime Minister Mark Brown on Wednesday announced that Hawaiian Airlines will begin flying to the Cook Islands from Honolulu starting May 20, 2023.
In a statement Brown said: “After
many months of active discussions, my officials have completed the due
diligence and paperwork that will see Hawaiian Airlines commence this flight in
the second quarter of next year. These flights will provide important access to the North American market
for the Cook Islands’ tourism sector, forming a key pillar in our recovery from
flights between North America and the Cook Islands ceased at the outbreak of
Covid-19. This resulted in a loss of 15,700 seats annually and around 12,000
annual visitors to the Cook Islands from the origin markets of USA, Canada,
Europe and the United Kingdom. The
United States market is the third-largest single-country market (after New
Zealand and Australia) for tourists coming to the Cook Islands, with over 8400
visitors in 2019 (plus an additional 2700 from Canada).
Customers visiting the Cook Islands from the Northern hemisphere are among the highest on-island spenders, contributing substantially to the Cook Islands economy. Americans stay longer, spend more and are more likely to visit Aitutaki and other pa enua (outer islands) than is the case with many other origin markets.
Cook Islands News expects further announcement and an update on the Sydney flight at a press conference later today.
Prime Minister Mark Brown told Sky News Australia last week that direct flights between Cook Islands and Australia will return within the next few months.
Brown said an announcement could be made on the issue
Cook Islands Tourism Corporation then issued a written
statement on Sunday evening inviting media to attend a press conference at the
Office of the Prime Minister for an aviation update for the Cook Islands at
8.50am on Monday.
The conference was postponed at 8.30am on Monday.
On Tuesday, Cook Islands Tourism Corporation general
manager Daniel Fisher said the aviation update had to be delayed due to the
unavailability of Brown, but would likely go ahead this afternoon.
Before Covid-19, the Sydney and Los Angeles direct
flights operated by Air New Zealand were subsidised by the Cook Islands
Cook Islands Tourism Council president Liana Scott, of
Muri Beach Club Hotel, said the industry would be really excited to hear of
news of either a Sydney-Rarotonga or Los Angeles-Rarotonga flight being
“As we head into a quieter period, lower than normal
occupancy is certainly being felt across tourism,” Scott said.
“North Americans and Europeans generally would escape
their winter and make the Cook Islands a top choice of destination – given they
only have a certain number of leave days available; they are always looking for
the quickest route possible, and having to travel via Auckland twice is not
ideal, not to mention expensive.”
Scott said convenience is a very important factor and
can make all the difference in the decision-making time when it comes to
travel, particularly if travelling as a family or small group.
“It is imperative that these flights resume as soon as
possible, as it requires a lead booking period,” she said.
Castaway Resort owner-operator Paul Ash yesterday said he hoped today’s announcement would be “a big one”.
“Everyone’s waiting for something to happen,” Ash
“We know it’s not going to happen overnight, but we
Ash said unless there was a major increase in flights,
or a drop in airfares, most tourism businesses would be facing a “difficult
summer”, while the current economic situation in New Zealand was “pretty dicey”.
“Most New Zealanders are pretty broke at the moment,”
“The airfares are just not that attractive to most New
Zealanders, Air New Zealand could do us a huge favour by making them more
Ash said there
could be the need for some government assistance over the down period, as
tourism operators struggle with the low visitor numbers.
“We’ve all done a lot of work since the pandemic, we
just want our businesses to survive the next period, but that’s going to be difficult
unless something changes soon,” he said.
At the Global Breakfast Update earlier this month,
tourism operators were told that operators were warned that visitor numbers
were more than 32 per cent down on pre-Covid 19 peaks, and more than 42 per cent
down on flight frequency.
Several tourism operators have spoken to Cook Islands
News, saying they will likely have to cut down staff hours or staff numbers
because of the likely downturn during the December to March period.
More in tomorrow's edition
Steven Douglas on 30/11/2022
Fantastic! We are looking forward to coming back to our favorite island from the U.S. :)