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11 November 2022

The turtle tour debate

Monday 3 April 2023 | Written by Supplied | Published in Letters to the Editor, Opinion


The turtle tour debate

Dear Editor, The “overcrowded” swim-with-turtles debate currently on is, this writer suggests, a microcosm of this country’s decades-long inability to come to grips with tourism in general.

The turtle tour debate, like the tourism in general debate, is all about numbers. How many tourists a year should we have? How many turtle tourists can Avaavaroa passage handle at one time?

No matter how many times it is pointed out that quality is more important than quantity, our tourism ‘leaders’ stay focused on quantity.

We see that a group of eager Cook Islanders is off to Hawaii to learn to ‘manage tourism better’. Well, we all hope something besides the usual free holiday comes from that.

But, let us be clear, no one needs to go to Hawaii to sort out the Avaavaroa question, and sort it out very quickly. We see that one operator is charging $89 a person and another $90 a person. A total misconception of the ‘market’ and of the potential customers. Anyone who is a $1 bargain-hunter is not your target. You have a monopoly on turtle tours; one set of turtles in one passage. The customer you want is the one willing to pay a big price to swim with turtles and tell friends back home of that once in a life time blessing. No one wants to report that they spent an hour swimming with a horde of other tourists.

The way to limit numbers is to raise the price. Add $5 a week, and keep adding $5 a week, until the numbers go down while at the same time your income remains the same. It’s inevitable, that exercise will limit the numbers in the passage.

Cooperate, you operators.

(Name and address supplied)


Michael Sloan on 11/04/2023

Dear Editor, I am a tourist to your beautiful home and wholeheartedly agree with the above sentiment. You could double the price of something like the turtle tours and still have no shortage of takers. Tourists will always grumble about prices and then pay up. Don’t go to Hawaii to learn how to do this. It is everything I hope the Cook Islands never becomes. Go to the Galapago Islands or Costa Rica. They have learned that charging more makes something even more desirable to international tourists. Every year as the world loses more of it’s beautiful and unique natural places what you have becomes more valuable. Be brave, be proud, charge what it’s worth and watch them line up!