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Opinion

LETTERS: Lost tourists and duty of care

Friday 2 September 2022 | Written by Supplied | Published in Letters to the Editor, Opinion

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LETTERS: Lost tourists and duty of care

Kia orana editor,

There was a recent front-page story about tourists who became disoriented and lost their way while doing the cross-island trek. In response, the Police media spokesman seemed to think that prosecution of lost tourists to recover the costs of potential rescue efforts might be a way to deter such occurrences.

In fact, the legal situation is quite the opposite, and the authorities such as the Tourism Corporation owe a duty of care to ensure the safety and security of all our visitors  - and locals – who go on the cross-island trek.

The last thing we need is a litigious-minded visitor who decides to sue the Corporation for negligence for inviting them - via the numerous signs and tourist-related advertising - to take the cross-island 'walk' - which implies a gentle walk through manicured gardens - only to find

that it is more of a mountain trek with overgrown paths.

If Tourism wants to avoid legal consequences, the first thing to do would be to change the signs to say it is a cross-island trek and for them to have a team that regularly keeps the track in walkable condition with good signage so that visitors do not get lost.

Or to enact regulations that require visitors to take part in guided tours only or similar.

Actually, I recall a similar incident just a few years ago, when a visitor (an overseas lawyer) got lost and was so annoyed that she seriously considered taking legal action against the authorities for negligence, however, she was eventually talked out of doing so by

other friends.

Meitaki maata,

Observer

Response from Chief Executive Officer of Cook Islands Tourism, Karla Eggelton:

When our visitors are on island and enjoying the experiences we have to offer as a little paradise their safety is paramount.  This is a key focus in our work at Cook Islands Tourism Corporation.

With regards the iconic Cross-Island Trek we have an ongoing partnership with Cook Islands Police, National Environment Service and Cook Islands Tourism Industry Council. We have developed a series of safety communique to support these efforts.  We have distributed posters, videos, brochures, adverts, web pages and have staff on hand at our information centre that clearly outline our consistent messaging and safety guide for trekking on Rarotonga:

·       Ask a local for advice

·       Advise your accommodation or host of your intentions

·       Allow at least 3-5 hours walking time for the trek

·       Explore with at least a party of three

·       Plan to be back down before it gets dark

·       If you are unsure, book a guided tour with a local professional

·       Wear strong footwear

·       Do not attempt treks if it has rained or rain is forecast

·       Take a jacket and drinking water

·       Do not rely on mobile service whilst on the trek, reception is unreliable

·       Be advised – considerable physical effort is required on parts of the trek

·       Check your footwear is clean from plant debris or seeds to stop invasive species entering new areas

·       For emergencies call 999

In the absence of a regulatory framework to support these efforts, it is a continuous work in progress with our key partners and stakeholders to strengthen this aspect of our work.  With hundreds of trekkers taking on the excursion each month we encourage all operators, accommodators and visitors to share this information to anyone wishing to explore our beautiful island and cross island trek. Common sense also applies.