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Cruise tourism faces challenges despite removal of travel restrictions

Thursday 22 September 2022 | Written by Matthew Littlewood | Published in Economy, National, Travel

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Cruise tourism faces challenges despite removal of travel restrictions
Cruise ship Paul Gauguin making a stop in Rarotonga in 2016. MS Paul Gauguin of PONANT Cruises will call at Rarotonga on June 28 2016. Photo: FILE/16091323

The removal of travel restrictions won’t have an immediate impact for the cruise ship tourism in the Cook Islands.

Earlier this month, the Cook Islands government removed all vaccine requirements for travelling throughout the islands for both sea and air access.

Cruise Cook Islands general manager Stuart Henry said: “Certainly the relaxing of vaccination status may make travel to the Cooks more attractive, but for the cruise ship industry they remain strict with regards to their Covid-19 policy where all crew and guests are fully vaccinated.”

“When we clear the ship, our officials must provide RAT tests. When Akirata Dance Troup entertained the MS Paul Gauguin in June and August visits all the team are to send in vaccination status and RAT tests are carried out on the pier prior to boarding,” Henry said.

Henry said most cruise ships had their schedule booked more than a year in advance.

“They’re going to places which are generally safe or have low Covid-19 numbers,” he said.

“Vaccination status is still important on those ships, they’re like a floating village, all ships have robust ways to contain and isolate should a crew or guest test positive. By all being vaccinated, it lowers the risk of an outbreak.”

Henry said it was dealing with several ship visits for the remainder of 2022. This included the Paul Gauguin, the Silver Explorer, the Noordam, the Zuiderdam, the AIDAsol and the Silver Whisper.

Cook Islands Tourism Corporation director for destination and development Christian Mani said it would take a while before the effects of the relaxation of vaccination status will be noticed on the cruise ship market.

“It’s generally booked out about a year or even two years in advance, so removing the restrictions won’t have an immediate impact in the schedule,” Mani said.

“However, it does make it easier for ships already coming here, and hopefully it will make it more appealing going forward.”