Sustainable tourism development is the key suggestion from the people who took part in the recent surveys run by the Cook Islands Tourism Corporation.
The surveys run in conjunction with the New Zealand Tourism Research Institute had 900 respondents, of which 35 per cent made comments.
From those who made comments, 21 per cent came up with suggestions on tourism development. And sustainable tourism development topped the suggestions on 59 per cent.
Infrastructure improvement was the second highest recommendation on 36 per cent followed by suggestion to improve marketing on 34 per cent.
Other suggestions include education on tourism, government strategies, tourist education, balancing tourism and culture, more training for local business, more connections (flights) and more events or activities.
Some suggestions included: “I think that the Cook Islands should be trying to attract high-end tourists and discourage budget travellers to reap the maximum return from tourism for the smallest environmental, social and cultural impact”.
Another respondent suggested “more work collaboration between Tourism and sectors directly involved with Cook Islands Culture (Ministry Of Culture, Te Aronga Mana, House of Ariki groups such as Korero o te 'Orau etc.), Environment (NES), Waste Management Te Ipukarea Society etc.) and law enforcement (Police, Crown Law and Ministry of Justice)”.
“I would rather see the Cooks injecting more effort/money into the outer islands to bring them up to the same quality of life as enjoyed by the Rarotongans,” another respondent recommended.
There was also a reasonable amount of positive feedback from those who made comments in the surveys.
About 53 per cent made positive feedback which included the economic impacts and tourism doing well as an industry.
“We are absolutely blessed to live here and be a blessing to the world. People pay thousands of dollars to experience our islands, our culture, people and way of life. We should do our best to protect these things,” one respondent said.
“I live in Muri, in my view the heart of the tourism market. Although I do not personally or directly benefit from any tourist activities, I have many family members who either work in the tourism industry or benefit because or from it.
“For me personally I am interacting with tourists everyday as I love to walk on our beaches in Muri as a means of exercise so it’s not hard to pop out a kind Kia Orana to any person that I pass,” another one added.
The negative remarks which came from 47 per cent of those who made comments included concerns about tourists’ behaviour and numbers followed by environmental impacts, cultural impacts and infrastructure.
A respondent said some tourists need to respect the local way of life, traditions, values, culture and the people.
“Don’t expect us locals to accept their ways e.g. wearing revealing clothes or bikinis or going around shirtless on public transports or flying ... respect is given to be received.”
Another respondent said: “Every year there are new hotels and tourism-related business going up in Rarotonga but the state of the roads remain the same.”
“Sewage and waste storage facilities cannot meet the high volumes of tourists coming to Rarotonga so the environment then becomes overwhelmed and polluted,” a respondent said.
There were also respondents defending tourists saying tourism is not the problem.
“Pollution and rubbish is unlikely due to tourists, you just need to go down to ‘socials’ beach and there is heaps of bags of rubbish ... or travel some of the back roads and rubbish is just dumped,” a respondent said.
“It is not tourism that causes harm to the environment or theft or other criminal behaviour. It is a lack of planning and provision for good infrastructure and a lack of prioritising that has caused harm to our environment. It is local values and poverty and parenting or lack of parenting that has caused theft and other illegal behaviours.”