Expatriate workers planning to return home are being asked to consider the economic situation of their countries before making their final decision.
This follows the recent availability of an Air
New Zealand flight connecting to Fiji from Rarotonga on March 30. A similar
charter/repatriation flight has been made available for April 18. This is
similar to the December flight where close to 30 Fijians left Rarotonga.
Liana Scott, the president of Cook Islands
Tourism Industry Council, said: “There are definitely going to be interest in
these flights. It would be interesting to see how many are currently on the
unemployment benefit. Furthermore, often there are personal reasons people wish
to return home, unwell parents to name an example.”
However, she is asking expatriate workers “to
be very sure of their decisions”.
Scott, who is also the general manager of Muri
Beach Club Hotel, says Cook Islands is one of the very few Pacific island
countries that have done very well in terms of care for its expatriate
Things back home for many of these expatriate
workers may be tough, she said.
The tourism industry is also wary of a
possible labour shortage with expatriate workers returning home and Cook
Islanders leaving the country in numbers to take up seasonal work in New
Cook Islands government is hoping to form a
two-way quarantine free travel with New Zealand by the end of next month, to
allow Kiwi visitors to travel here for the first time since the borders closed
in March last year.
Scott says while they understand and
appreciate the need for expatriate employees to return home, they are aware of
the difficulty of getting in new labour into the country.
“Particularly for non-New Zealand passport
holders who currently have no opportunity to transit New Zealand to get here,
so filling or replacing those roles is going to be a challenge,” she said.
“Businesses are already talking about the
changes that are going to be required within their respective businesses to
make adjustments or have no choice but to downsize operations.”
As per the statistics released last year,
there are about 1500 expatriate workers here.
“So, these groups contribute massively to the
sustainability of the economy, not to mention, will be very much needed come an
open border, particularly with the likely demand.”
Tourism workers are currently under
government’s wage subsidy scheme which has been extended until the end of
Scott said they have constantly repeated that
“human resources are one of their most important commodities and thus are a
However, she said an extension of the subsidy
in the event of the two-way bubble not occurring, “is very likely”.
“We also have the envious status of being
Covid free – so still one of the absolute safest destinations in the world”.