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$13m boost from June arrivals

Friday 16 July 2021 | Written by Emmanuel Samoglou | Published in Economy, National

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$13m boost from June arrivals
Halatoa Fua.

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 Club Resort. 

“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 makers.

“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 to grow.

“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.

  • Additional reporting by Al Williams