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Tata Crocombe: Diversifying the Cook Islands economy

Tuesday 18 April 2023 | Written by Supplied | Published in Editorials, Opinion


Tata Crocombe: Diversifying the Cook Islands economy
The Rarotongan Beach Resort & Lagoonarium managing director Tata Crocombe. 20032050

Hotelier Tata Crocombe proposes top three short, medium, and long-term action items to reinforce links between creative industries, tourism, education, and technology.

The Cook Islands, known for our pristine beaches, beautiful lagoons and vibrant culture, have long relied on a thriving tourism industry. However, to create a more diversified and resilient economy, it is essential to build strong, mutually reinforcing links between the creative industries, tourism, education, and technology sectors. By doing so, the Cook Islands can move away from commoditised “fly and flop” tourism and offer visitors a more unique and immersive cultural experience that would underpin a more significant contribution of the creative industries to the national economy.

To make this vision a reality, I propose the top three action items for the short, medium, and long term:

Short-term action items:

  1. Establish a dedicated task force to develop and implement a comprehensive strategy for promoting and supporting creative industries in the Cook Islands. The Government should immediately appoint talented creative artist and new Member of Parliament Sonny Williams as the Chairman of this Task Force.
  2. The Task Force would work closely with Tourism Cook Islands to actively incorporate even more than we do today, the unique, vibrant contemporary culture of the Cook Islands into our overall destination marketing, and to work with hotels, resorts, and tour operators to showcase local art, performances, and cultural experiences for visitors more prominently in everything we do.
  3. Double the arts education budget for schools for next year, integrating arts and creative subjects into the education curriculum and providing resources and support for schools to develop arts programmes, including digital arts.

Medium-term action items:

  1. Develop creative hubs, coworking spaces, and networking events that encourage collaboration among artists, tech professionals, and entrepreneurs, and facilitate the sharing of knowledge, resources, and ideas. These should include the Cook Islands communities living in New Zealand and Australia.
  2. Create a marketing campaign to promote the Cook Islands’ unique arts and culture offerings to both domestic and international audiences. With new upgraded air links with Tahiti and Hawaii, there is an immediate opportunity for the creative industries to lead the way in building on traditional links with these fellow Polynesian communities that also have strong creative arts communities and industries.
  3. Establish partnerships with international institutions such as the University of the South Pacific and the AUT to offer specialised courses in creative fields and foster international collaboration. There are so many world-famous Polynesian artists such as Professor Albert Wendt that could be invited to teach at the Cook Islands USP Centre and be part of the momentum to stimulate the local creative industries in the Cook Islands.

Long-term action items:

  1. Invest in infrastructure projects that support the growth of creative industries, such as performance venues, galleries, and innovation centres, as well as reliable internet connectivity and transportation networks. The University of the South Pacific could be a powerful focal point and stimulant to the creative industries of the Cook Islands.
  2. Develop a sustainable funding model for the creative industries through a combination of government support, private sector investment, and revenue-generating initiatives.
  3. Monitor progress and adapt the comprehensive strategy to ensure its effectiveness in achieving its goals, adjusting as needed based on performance, changing circumstances, and feedback from stakeholders with an Annual Report to Parliament on the progress of the Creative Industries of the Cook Islands.

By implementing these action items, I believe the Cook Islands will have an improved chance of becoming an even more sought-after destination while providing rewarding opportunities in the growing creative industries for our people. The creative industries have the potential to become a driving force in our economy, working with the tourism, education and technology sectors in paving the way for a bright, fun, and prosperous future.

  • Tata Crocombe is the owner of The Rarotongan Beach Resort & Lagoonarium, Sanctuary Rarotonga and Aitutaki Lagoon Private Island Resort.