Tuesday 26 April 2022 | Written by Caleb Fotheringham | Published in National, Travel
Fiona Beston from Canberra is making a multiple-day journey at the end of May to visit her son Harry who she hasn’t seen in a year.
To get to the Cook Islands, Beston will drive three hours to Sydney, then fly to Auckland where she will spend two nights in transit, and then fly into Rarotonga.
The Cook Islands border reopened to Australia on April 14, but Australians keen to visit the island nation need to transit in Auckland.
The Cook Islands will further open on May 2 to all New Zealand visa waiver countries.
“I definitely would have flown directly from Sydney if a direct flight was available as it is winter here and in New Zealand, so I needed to have winter and summer clothes with me,” Beston said.
“Whereas I would have just had the one winter outfit to wear on the plane and one check-in, I was disappointed this wasn’t available.”
Beston said Australians were more likely to visit the Cook Islands if there were direct flights.
Harry, who is also from Australia, said his mother had to compete with New Zealanders trying to fly into the country.
“It's a bit of work at the moment, he said, flights were quite booked up and the prices were quite high on some of the flights, and I guess that's just because a lot of New Zealanders are still coming over.”
Harry said his mother had the advantage of not needing to pay for accommodation.
“She will be staying at our place; she can justify the cost (to come) because of that. But I think she said if she had to pay for accommodation she would just wait for direct flights because she is already paying a lot more, just because she has to do two flights and wait in New Zealand.”
Australian High Commissioner to the Cook Islands Dr Christopher Watkins said there were many “Cozzies” - Cook Islander Australians - who were desperate to reunite and were prepared to transit in New Zealand.
“Because there are a growing number of Cook Islanders with Australian passports rather than New Zealand passports, they were not able to enter New Zealand to transit until this month.
“I have met some of them in recent days and they are so pleased to be back. But I suspect most Australian tourists are waiting for the direct flights.
“It's not easy to transit in New Zealand as you need to leave the airport to get a test and there is an overnight wait. Most Aussies would prefer the comfort of the direct flight.
“I think we will see Australian tourism numbers pick up with the direct flights. It’s a long way, so they tend to stay longer and visit the Pa Enua while they are here.”
Dr Watkins said the Australian High Commission received daily enquires from Australians wanting to come over.
“Most are waiting for the direct flights. I think we should celebrate when that first plane from Sydney lands. Our countries are like old mates who haven’t seen each other in too long. Maybe the tourism minister and I should hold an Aussie barbeque at the airport.”
Prime Minister Mark Brown said the Cook Islands airline team are in discussions with Air New Zealand and other airlines about opening the direct Sydney route.
“We’re all very keen about it, the Australian market is a significant component of our tourism economy. The sooner we can get it up and running, the better.
“We’ve seen online bookings with July as a date, but I’ve yet to be updated on any further progress.
“But we’re really hopeful to have something shortly, especially as we head into the traditional peak period for tourism.”