Wednesday 29 March 2023 | Written by Matthew Littlewood | Published in Economy, National, Travel
Cook Islands Tourism Corporation director of destination and development Brad Kirner will join representatives from Climate Change Cook Islands and Te Ipukarea Society at the Local 2030 Islands Network conference in April in Hawaii.
Kirner said the concept of regenerative tourism was becoming increasingly important, particularly as economies recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The Hawaii conference visit is an opportunity to establish mutually beneficial relationships with other island nations and stakeholders surrounding sustainable and regenerative tourism, with how to ensure a community-based approach, and how to measure impact on holistic wellbeing of people and place both being core topics,” he said.
“It’s not just Pacific nations attending - the Local 2030 Islands Network has members from all over the world,” he said.
Kirner said it was also a good opportunity to learn from the journey the Hawaiian tourism industry has taken in response to the community-voiced need for a regenerative tourism approach.
“It’s not just about sustainability, which to me is about doing no further harm,” Kirner said.
Kirner said in Hawaii, post-Covid-19 pandemic, there had been a “groundswell” of opinion that tourism needed to be managed better.
“For me, regenerative tourism is about ensuring we leave the country in a better place.
“Tourism accounts for about two-thirds of our GDP, so everything we do in the tourism sphere has an impact on our country.”
Kirner said the Takitimu Conservation Area was a good example of regenerative tourism in action.
“The visitors can get directly involved in improving the environment, which is awesome,” he said.
“So we’re looking at other opportunities in that sphere.”
Kirner said as Cook Islands Tourism Corporation looked into tourism development in the Pa Enua, there was a need to understand what the communities actually wanted.
He said it was about looking at what would be “an acceptable level of change”.
“Some of the Pa Enua are further along in their journey than others,” he said.
“The strategy has to be connected to each island’s needs and desires. There is an incredible opportunity to harness the power of tourism and use it for good.
“An overall goal is to ensure we maximise positive benefits and minimise negative impacts of tourism, both on Rarotonga, and the Pa Enua.”
Kirner said he was looking forward to learning about what other Pacific Tourism Organisations had done to advance the idea of regenerative tourism.
“It comes down to the four C’s: Commerce, conservation, community and culture,” he said.
“It’s about optimising the potential benefits for each of these.”
Kirner said the conference was also a good opportunity to collaborate with Climate Change Cook Islands and Te Ipukarea Society.
“It’s an opportunity for a more holistic approach. We have shared goals and desires,” he said.
The Local 2030 Islands Network conference will be held from April 2-6.