Bollywood

Covid-19: Cook Islands tourism industry excited about travel bubble reopening

[ad_1]

The Cook Islands reopens to New Zealand on January 14, three months after the travel bubble was forced to be suspended.

RYAN ANDERSON/Stuff

The Cook Islands reopens to New Zealand on January 14, three months after the travel bubble was forced to be suspended.

Cook Islands tourism operators are ready to welcome Kiwis back on Friday when quarantine-free travel resumes with New Zealand, but are wary about Omicron getting into the country.

It’s been more than five months since the Cook Islands government barred all tourist flights into Rarotonga after the Delta outbreak began in Auckland.

Before then, the Cook Islands and New Zealand travel bubble had been in place for three months, following a 15-month border closure due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Torika Tokalau/Stuff

Aitutaki tourism operators are ready to welcome New Zealand visitors back after the Cook Islands reopened its borders.

Resort operator Tata Crocombe said the industry was excited about re-opening and hoping for no more surprises down the road, so the country could finally rebuild its economy.

READ MORE:
* Covid-19: Cook Islands holiday bookings slow ahead of January 14 travel bubble
* Covid-19: Cook Islands tourism operators frustrated with new travel policy
* Cook Islands bubble: Celebration as first travel bubble flight lands in Rarotonga

“We’re very excited, but everyone’s got an eye on Omicrom whether it may disrupt things, if not straight away or in the near future,” Crocombe said.

Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown says the government has tightened Covid measures in place, to keep everyone safe.

ROBERT KITCHIN/Stuff

Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown says the government has tightened Covid measures in place, to keep everyone safe.

“The uncertainty has affected things, but we expect a steady growth as this becomes a reality.”

Crocombe, the managing director of the four-star The Raratongan, said hoteliers had spruced up accommodation, retrained staff, put in place Covid measures and revamped menus.

His hotel was at 50 per cent occupancy for the first few weeks of the bubble, as bookings slowly steamed in.

“We are ready to go. There will be an element of risk, we know that,” Crocombe said.

“It’s a balancing act, just like the rest of the world – what public health measures do we put in place that is safe enough to reopen the economy? Every sensible measure that can be taken by our government has been taken.

“We can’t stay closed forever, the economic risk is too much.”

Pre-Covid, Cook Islands GDP was estimated at $550 million, but the pandemic saw that figure fall to under $400m.

In his recent budget speech, Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown said the country had seven years of strong growth, primarily off the back of international tourism.

“Since Covid, we have experienced an unprecedented shock and deep economic recession of 28 per cent since March 2020, with 21.5 per cent of that in the current fiscal year,” Brown said.

In preparation for border re-opening, public health measures have been tightened, and Cooks has a 97 per cent vaccination rate of its eligible population.

An Air New Zealand spokesperson said for now, there would only be one daily flight to Rarotonga.

International travellers must return a negative PCR Covid test before departure, must have been in New Zealand for 10 days and be fully vaccinated.

Children under 12 years can only enter the country if they are fully vaccinated. Vaccinations for 5-11 year-olds in New Zealand start on January 17.

Cook Islands Tourism Australasia general manager Graeme West said excitement levels about Friday’s border opening was high as final preparations were being made.

“Bookings are steady for the summer months and climbing heavily from April onwards,” West said.

He said people in New Zealand were in the very special position as they were the only ones able to enjoy the unique privilege of an overseas holiday on their beautiful tropical islands without having to quarantine or self-isolate at either end of their trip.

[ad_2]

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.