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
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
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.
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
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
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