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Rarotonga-Papeete flights ‘will boost tourism’

Monday 15 August 2022 | Written by CI News Staff | Published in National, Travel


Rarotonga-Papeete flights ‘will boost tourism’
Prime Minister Mark Brown and Tahiti (French Polynesia) President Edouard Fritch during the Tiare Tahiti ribbon cutting ceremony to mark the arrival of the inaugural Air Rarotonga commercial flight at the Faa’a International Airport in Papeete in August last year. Photo: PRESIDENT’S OFFICE TAHITI/22081431

The resumption of international flights between Cook Islands and Tahiti got off to a boisterous start with traditional ceremonies and celebrations in both countries marking the departure and arrival of the inaugural Air Rarotonga commercial flight on Saturday.

Pre-Covid the route was serviced by Air Tahiti Nui. Local airline Air Rarotonga has now taken over the services providing an important link for visitors from Europe and North America wanting to visit the Cook Islands. Air New Zealand’s weekly Los Angeles-Rarotonga flight which provided that link pre-Covid has been suspended indefinitely.

In Rarotonga before the inaugural flight departed at around 2pm, a special event was held at the VIP Lounge followed by a traditional blessing.

Prime Minister Mark Brown, who led a Cook Islands delegation of government officials, Air Rarotonga representatives and media, said: “Tourism has been the lifeline of our economy for decades now, since March 2020 we as a nation preserved at a great cost to ourselves the investments of the decades in our tourism industry. As we emerge from Covid and reconnect with the world it is tourism that will drive our economic recovery, assure our economic and social prosperities and provide the necessary investment for the diversification of our economy into the future.”

Air Rarotonga managing director Ewan Smith thanked PM Brown and his government for the Covid-19 support and initiating talks with Tahiti government to resume the services.

Smith said “this is a very humble start” with one flight per week – departing Rarotonga on Saturdays and arriving back a day later – but “it is the first step to building essential links to our cousins in Tahiti”.

The Cook Islands delegates were received by Tahiti President Edouard Fritch, Minister of Tourism, and his officials at the Faa’a International Airport in Papeete on Saturday afternoon.

After a traditional welcome, the visiting party attended a Polynesian show presented by the Hana Pupu Ori Tahiti troupe, winner of the Hura Ava Tau prize at the Heiva i Tahiti 2022.

Watch the arrival of the Cook Islands delegation in Tahiti here:

Cook Islands Tourism chief executive officer Karla Eggelton said: “The afternoon dedication upon arrival was symbolic of the mutual commitment of both countries working together.”

Immediately from the welcome, PM Brown and President Fritch moved straight into bilateral discussions on topics of mutual interest followed by additional meetings between officials of the two countries.

Eggelton said: “The support shown by French Polynesia to the Cook Islands and delegation surpassed all expectation. In the coming weeks and months as the conversations start to take shape, this information will be shared with the industry and general public, starting with the global breakfast update to be held 23 August (Rarotonga) and 24 August (Aitutaki).”

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