Rebecca Tavioni is the new Cook Islands Chamber of Commerce chief executive. PHOTO: SUPPLIED/22030805
A major business survey which included Cook Islands has found that Pacific Island businesses are still struggling in the Covid-19 environment – but are optimistic that things will change.
The latest Pacific Business Monitor, released on Monday, shows that of the businesses surveyed, 91 per cent of them reported negative impacts over the second quarter of this year due to Covid-19, while 61 per cent reported a decline in revenue.
However, 90 per cent of those surveyed believe their
businesses will survive the Covid-19 crisis, 83 per cent are confident it will
come back stronger.
Cook Islands Chamber of Commerce chief executive
Rebecca Tavioni said the survey results did not come as much of a surprise.
“While we’re likely to see some improvements
month-on-month, we’re unlikely to see any major changes on the impact of
Covid-19 until certain business barriers are resolved,” Tavioni said.
“The country has limited inbound flights with New
Zealand being the sole port of entry to the Cook Islands, the French Polynesia
scheduled weekly flight commences this Saturday, and we are yet to receive news
on the Los Angeles route starting anytime soon.”
Tavioni said the impact of Covid-19 is likely to
remain for some time.
“We’re not going to see major shifts as a result,” she
Tavioni said in January 2022, shortly after the
borders re-opened, a Labour Workforce Survey conducted by the Private Sector
Taskforce reported no less than 630 vacancies, to date there have been more
than 230 work permits approved by Immigration Cook Islands.
“So that’s a positive sign, and it shows the labour
market remains active and businesses are working through the logistics of
recruitment,” she said.
Tavioni said one of the big worries for businesses was
the rise in inflation, which was putting extra pressure on freight costs, while
the phasing out of both interest holidays and the wage subsidy scheme also put
many Cook Islands businesses in a tricky position.
“And then you have events such as the king tide, which
battered parts of the island at a time in which many businesses’ cash reserves
have not yet had the chance to recuperate,” Tavioni said.
Rarotongan businessman Fletcher Melvin said staffing
was the biggest issue, with many businesses now having to bring in some from
“Businesses are closing on some days because of staff
shortages. There is also with supply chains and now business owners need to
purchase much earlier to take into account the delays in freight,” Melvin said.
He agreed more flights needed to be secured.
“This is an ongoing issue and we need a long-term
solution to secure more capacity,” he said.
“Inflation and uncertainty regarding flight capacity are scaring
However, Melvin said it was encouraging that tourists
are spending on the same levels pre-Covid.
“There is still a lot of building happening both domestic
Air New Zealand late yesterday doubled the weekly
number of flights coming to the Cook Islands over the November to April period
from five to 10.