Tourism recovery gained momentum last month with a further uptick in arrival numbers as Kiwi holidaymakers land in Rarotonga to escape the New Zealand winter.
More than 6000 tourists visited the Cook Islands in
June, contributing millions of dollars to the local economy.
According to statistics released by the Ministry of
Finance and Economic Management, total arrivals for the month of June were
recorded at 6562, of which 6054 were visitors.
They would have spent $13,252,206 in “direct spend”, as
per the latest average spend per visitor per visit figure of $2189. According
to Cook Islands Tourism International Visitor Survey, direct spend includes all
expenses relating to airfares, accommodation, food and beverage, tours and
activities, transport, telecommunications, etc.
Halatoa Fua, the chief executive for Cook Islands
Tourism, says the 6054 international visitors recorded for June 2021 is an
important milestone as visitors normally book an average booking window of 90
days before travel dates.
“The pent up demand was understandingly strong given
the Cook Islands is the only Pacific Islands destination available for New Zealand
travellers under the Quarantine Free Travel arrangement,” Fua said
Liana Scott, the Cook Islands Tourism Industry Council
president, said the numbers correspond with what she’s seeing on the ground – a
bustling tourism industry emerging from the Covid-19 pandemic.
“When you cannot get a rental car or the tours or
activities are fully booked until the following week, then these are the signs
that the island is doing well,” said Scott, who also manages the Muri Beach
“Although some businesses have pivoted into a smaller
fleet or fewer tours due to staff shortages, or fear of the unknown, overall
industry is pleased with the huge amount of interest from the Kiwi holiday
“At the end of the day, there was a considerable
amount of uncertainly, and to a large extent there still is caution due to the
fact that things may change at any time.”
According to figures released by Cook Islands Tourism
since the bubble was opened on May 17, roughly 11,000 visitors are expected to
arrive this month.
Future projections see 9000 visitors in August, 10,000
in September, and 10,500 in October.
Fua said these projections were made this month before
some major announcements including Air New Zealand’s decision to add more
flights to Rarotonga.
“Since the projections made, Air New Zealand has added
11,000 more seats between August and October 2021. This follows a well-attended
Cook Islands Tourism Trade & Consumer Show in Auckland by both local
tourism operators and consumers,” he said.
The economic recovery after roughly 15 months of
closed borders got underway in mid-May when quarantine-free travel was
established between NZ and the Cook Islands.
A total of 1486 tourists visited the country in the
first two weeks in May.
Private sector leaders have said early revenue figures
are positive however many businesses will continue to face a cash crunch as
most government support programmes have ended, such as the wage subsidy and
interest support payments for debt relief.
Despite the challenges, Scott said: “The outlook is
looking very favourable”.
“Forwards for most accommodators in July and August
are in the high 70 to 80 per cent occupancies – still a lot of last minute
bookings, but the confidence of Kiwis to travel to the Cook Islands continues
“The hope is that the numbers being experienced now
filters through to those traditionally quieter months of December and January.”
Government statisticians also noted that 501 Cook Islands residents left the country last month for education, short-term, or permanently.