Visitor arrivals to the Cook Islands took a nosedive in February this year after experiencing continued growth over the past couple of years.
In February, the country welcomed 7608 visitors, which was 10 per cent lower than the number recorded in the same period last year. In February, 2018, 8459 visitors holidayed in the Cook Islands.
New Zealand, which is the country’s leading market for tourists, also recorded a major dip of 11 per cent. In February last year, 4157 Kiwi visitors were recorded while 3710 were logged in February this year.
All other markets recorded a decline except for the Europe/United Kingdom which saw a two per cent increase.
Historically, February is the lowest season for the local tourism industry, however the numbers this year are the lowest in two years.
The visitor arrivals recorded in February this year are also considerably lower than January when compared to previous years.
In January this year, 10,128 visitors came into the country followed by about 25 per cent decline in February.
Cook Islands Tourism Corporation chief executive officer Halatoa Fua said the dip in February predominantly relates to the outstanding summer and strong competition in New Zealand.
Fua said increased air capacity from Auckland to Bali, coupled with sharp deals to Hawaii and Fiji also have an impact.
“A good summer in New Zealand has always been a disincentive to prompt consumers to book an island getaway,” Fua said.
Air New Zealand have rescheduled the B787-9 aircraft (Dreamliner) on the LAX/RAR and SYD/RAR services, commencing as early as this week, Fua revealed.
He added this would increase air capacity on these routes by 11 per cent based on the current operating aircraft.
“It should be noted that the Cook Islands has had three years of strong growth. Tourism growth is cyclical in nature as high demand can push prices up and followed by a stage of strong competition,” Fua said.
“Growth projection for this financial year 2018/19 is +4 per cent (as per Budget book). Despite the dip in February, year to date growth this financial year is still up by 3 per cent.”
Fua also said they have noticed “some softening” in some months of the forward bookings discussed with the airlines and properties.
“Our international offices are currently analysing booking trends and consumer behaviour to determine the most effective channels of pushing short term tactical campaigns on Cook Islands holidays,” he said.
“We are looking at how we can activate additional campaigns above and beyond our scheduled campaigns. This will require new funding to the affected market, which the corporation will have to revisit strategies by market.”
Efforts to get comments from the Cook Islands Tourism Industry Council on the February figures and its impact on the industry proved futile when this edition went to print yesterday.
However, an industry member at a recent tourism gathering stated that this was the poorest low season in the past 10 years. -