Inflation bites as the cost of living rises. PHOTO: CITC SUPERMARKET
Cook Islands is not a cheap destination and nor should it be. I believe in low-volume/high-value tourism which is easier on infrastructure and environment.
However that does not just mean high prices. The value must be there, and a big part of that is service. This is often sadly lacking.
It’s dangerous to generalise but Cook Islanders are generally polite, smiling, engaging and helpful. Until they’re not. It’s always disappointing to encounter someone surly, dismissive, lazy or unreliable. Unfortunately that happens here.
not sufficient to laugh and say “oh that’s just island time!” That’s patronising
and not listening to your client who may not want to be on island time when
they are hungry, need the room serviced or have to be somewhere (like the
airport). Their holiday time is hard earned and precious and we should be
grateful they have chosen to spend it here. It’s more our privilege than
sometimes feel the country rests on its laurels. The place is so beautiful it
sells itself and you don’t have to work too hard to clip the ticket. There may
be a rude awakening when the world finally reopens for business and a
travel-starved customer base will stretch its legs and look over the horizon.
the people we want to attract, the big spenders, we have to compete in the
world of warm holidays with the sophistication of Hawaii, the exotic locale of
much of Asia, the great service of Queensland, the historical lure of the
Mediterranean, the exciting difference of the Caribbean. Locally Tahiti offers
Frenchness, Fiji good prices and Vanuatu something unique.
offer points of difference which, for Kiwis, are actually points of similarity.
Short flight, NZ currency, little time difference, English language, good
coffee. A lot of Kiwi service is pretty ordinary so we can truly lift that game
though. A major problem is trained and willing workers. The huge contribution
made by our fabulous immigrant workforce needs to be recognised and encouraged.
often we hear stories of what amounts to discrimination against them. One
friend, a key professional contributing hugely to Cook Islands society, had a
non-injury drink-drive conviction five years ago for which he was punished.
Story over you would think. However every time he re-enters the country, he is
threatened at immigration with deportation with a less than subtle racist
overtone. That has to stop.
can and have changed for the better. So it’s possible. It used to be you had to
have on hand enough cash to pay the departure tax at the airport. Finally they
accepted cards and finally added it to your ticket. That only took about 10
years. Your lasting memory of Rarotonga was a particularly unpleasant woman who
was evidently hired for her scowl as she stamped your passport. Most customs
and immigration staff are now pleasant but the odd “barker” remains. And
customs still don’t accept cards for duty payments! Nor do they carry change.
absurd Cook Islands drivers licence requirement finally got scrapped. This was
a thinly veiled tourist tax designed to interrupt your holiday and annoy, which
it did. There was never anything cute or quaint about it.
beyond small businesses, some of the bigger players can provide poor service.
The airlines essentially have a stranglehold on all island economies. And they
know it. It suits them to only fly highly profitable full planes, so limited
schedules and random cancellations are employed ruthlessly. The premium lounge
in Rarotonga was originally a cupboard like space. However the new lounge was
like the Auckland Harbour Bridge: predictably far too small as soon as it was
opened. Poor service.
wholesalers are far from blameless. Most operators (except me, perhaps
foolishly) are too scared to criticise them. However most demand a commission
of 25 per cent which in my view is outrageous and not widely appreciated by
tourists. I don’t want to work every fourth night for a wholesaler. They may
mutate themselves out of existence as more friendly strains like online agents
and direct marketing take hold in the new world order. Poor service ultimately
does not get rewarded.
harm the economy and tourism. The exorbitant cost of a predeparture PCR test in
NZ was a barrier, now thankfully despatched. The indefensible cost and poor
quality of local internet is holding back the economy. It’s a frustration for
tourists, many of whom do some work on holiday, and prevents many businesses
establishing here. We could be a tech hub if we had the tech. Increase speeds and
decrease prices. Now.
is wonderful service on Rarotonga and Aitutaki but sometimes you need to look
for it. Those providers doing it well should be recognised and rewarded and
encouraged to share their knowledge and skills with formalised training
schemes, perhaps internships. We are in this together and there exists a
generous and helpful spirit in the industry which could be exploited.
service would then remove a further barrier to tourism.
Dr John Dunn FRACS is a Cook Islander, visiting
surgeon to Rarotonga Hospital and business owner in the Cook Islands