Visitors take part in the acclaimed Cook Islands Turtle Tour. Photo: Charlotte Piho Photography/22061506
A review of Cook Islands tourism has revealed that although numbers are down from previous peaks, those visiting are spending more money and time here.
The Auckland University of Technology report, released to Cook Islands News on Wednesday, shows that during the January to March period of this year – when the borders were reopened to New Zealanders – numbers were still well down on the 2019 peaks, but the visitor profiles had changed significantly.
“As a result of
the border restrictions, nearly all (99 per cent) of visitors surveyed come
from New Zealand,” the report says.
“Visitors are well
educated (66 per cent have some form of tertiary education) with a relatively
high annual household income (62 per cent earn over NZ$100,000 per year).
Nearly half (49 per cent) of visitors travel with more than one companion, and
solo travellers are less common (8 per cent).”
According to the
Ministry of Finance and Economic Management, there were 11,567 visitors for the
first quarter of 2022 (January to March), compared with 32,685 visitors in the
first quarter of 2019.
Cook Islands Tourism
Corporation destination and marketing manager Christian Mani said the results of
the survey were nonetheless encouraging.
“There was clearly
a lot of pent-up demand for travel, once border restrictions were removed for
New Zealand visitors,” Mani said.
“I think New
Zealanders were very comfortable travelling to the Cook Islands, as we are
Mani said it would
be encouraging if these demographics remained the same or similar in the next
quarter (April to June), but said the market had become more competitive of
becoming more confident about travelling further distances again, we know that
Fiji has been marketing very aggressively, for instance, while Australia is
also opening up,” Mani said.
“We know that the
peak period for Kiwis travelling to the Cook Islands is between March and
October, after the summer ends and just before it begins again.”
The current visitor
spend prior to arrival in the Cook Islands ($2227 per person) is much higher than the New Zealand visitors
in January to March 2019 period ($1658 per person), and higher than all
visitors of the same quarter ($2197), the report said.
Spend on the
island (per person per day) is $217. This spend was much higher than New Zealand
visitors’ local spend in January to March 2019 ($158) and also higher than all
visitors in the same quarter ($162 for January to March 2019).
average household income for visitors during the first quarter of 2022 was
$170,157, well ahead of the first quarter of 2019 (which had an average of
three-month period, 5414 visitors were contacted by email to take part in the
survey, and 1132 responses were received.
Mani said Cook
Islands Tourism was pleased with the strong level of feedback, as it meant they
would have a clearer picture of the tourism market.
The survey also
asked about the important Covid-19 related factors influencing the decision to
travel to the Cook Islands – “no quarantine requirement on arrival” was ranked
as the most important factor, followed by “sufficient health and safety
information provided prior to arrival”
Tourism Industry Council president Liana Scott, who runs Muri Beach Club Hotel,
said the survey results chimed well with her anecdotal experiences.
the joke on the island is that you know it is busy when you can’t get a rental
car,” Scott said.
that this is still the case and some properties have been recording very high
occupancies surpassing their expectations, so that is really pleasing to hear.”
to the survey, people were spending slightly longer in the Cook Islands on
average, with guests averaging 8.8 days in the first quarter of 2022, compared
to 8.2 days in the first quarter of 2019.
spend on island seems to be positive also with most guests spending on
experiences and a good time, and “this is also reflected in the full tours and
activities, restaurants and the like”.
sign of full occupancies are shorter stays – generally when the island starts
to fill up and visitors are still keen to travel, many properties will only
have small windows of occupancy available and it is quite common for the seven-
or nine-night’s stay to be spread over two to three different properties.”
surveyed, only 34 per cent of visitors were first-time visitors to the Cook
Islands, compared to 49 per cent in the first quarter of 2019.