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Cooks to reach ‘80k visitors by March’

Wednesday 24 August 2022 | Written by Matthew Littlewood | Published in Economy, National

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Cooks to reach ‘80k visitors by March’
Cook Islands Tourism Australasia General Manager, Graeme West. Photo: SUPPLIED/COOK ISLANDS TOURISM

Tourism numbers should be soon reaching close to pre-Covid-19 peaks, according to the Cook Islands Tourism Corporation’s regional boss.

On Tuesday morning, Cook Islands Tourism Corporation’s New Zealand and Australasia manager Graeme West predicted that over the next six months, numbers would be about 80 per cent of pre-Covid-19 levels.

“That’s much more positive news than what we were expecting a few weeks ago,” West told an audience of about 90 people for Tourism’s Global Breakfast Update at The Edgewater Resort.

“Our playing field has changed. Airlines have not been able to get back to pre-Covid-19 capacity. Covid-19 and seasonal flu has caused historically high isolation levels. Multiple global routes have been affected, causing airfares to be historically high,” West said.

“Airlines have been very cautious over the world. There is a new reality.”

West said everyone was “stretched to capacity”.

“We expect our position to be greatly improved by April next year,” he said.

However, he said Cook Islands Tourism’s projections were that the numbers to March would be about 80 per cent of pre-Covid-19 levels.

“My forecast is we will do about 80,000 visitors up to March. And that’s not bad, I think we can all survive on that,” West said.

He said Air New Zealand increasing its weekly service to Rarotonga to 10 flights a week from November to January would really help the market.

“We can’t go back to our pre-Covid levels because we don’t have connecting flights from Sydney and Los Angeles. But we’re optimistic this would be rectified between April to June next year. There’s a lot of work going in the background,” West said.

West said most operators would have experienced a good July, and August was also on target to experience solid numbers.

“The demand out of New Zealand and Australia is really strong, and if we had more planes, we would be able to fill them. For New Zealand, the numbers are about 115 per cent of usual rates, so we’re punching above our weight in that market at least,” he said.

“The challenge we’ve got is that there’s only so many seats available and we’re filling most of them.”

West said January to March was “looking way better than it was a week or so ago”.

“I think we’re going to do 90 per cent for January, 80 per cent for February and 70 per cent for March, so we would be looking at about 22,000 visitors for that period,” he said.

“It’s probably these three months that are my biggest worry, because it’s tough to get Kiwis out during this part of the year. Again, we have put in strategies in place to achieve the numbers or even go higher.”

West said the projections were “absolutely doable”.

“The good news is that Air New Zealand does one or two flights per week from Australia with very good same-day connectivity. We are working with several Australian carriers in the background, trying to get more capacity,” he said.

After the speech, West said the projections were based on the demand for flights and the available capacity over the coming period.

“At the moment, we’ve got the demand, but we can’t get them here at the moment. We’re slowly getting back that connectivity to Australia. I’m very confident of those figures, and think we can do better than the projections in January through to March,” West said.