COOK ISLANDS MINISTRY OF TOURISM AND TRANSPORT TO SPLIT

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By Florence Syme-Buchanan

AVARUA, Rarotonga, Cook Islands (February 12, 2000 – Cook Islands News)---The Ministry of Tourism and Transport will cease to exist after the main budget is passed in June, effecting the separation of the two government agencies.

Tourism and Transport Minister Dr. Robert Woonton says the separation has the full support of Tourism Chief Executive Chris Wong and the head of Transport Aukino Tairea.

He says Wong and Tairea both believe their respective departments can operate more efficiently on their own.

DECISION

Following a policy decision made by Dr. Woonton in December, the core functions of accreditation, hospitality, the Tourism and Training School and quality assurance were transferred back to Tourism Cook Islands from Transport.

Aukino Tairea told Cook Islands News that separating the two departments was "bound to happen."

"There was a call by the tourism industry prior to the July budget (last year) for tourism functions to be transferred to Tourism Cook Islands."

However, the ensuing political hiatus prevented that from happening, he says.

Tairea says the Transport division can go back to its core functions after being relieved of the tourism responsibilities.

Woonton says preparations are now under way to see that each division gets its own budget.

Transport will shift to the Avatiu waterfront building owned by the government and currently used by Nautilus Shipping.

The Avarua office currently shared by the agencies will be retained by Tourism Cook Islands, effectively returning the prime site to its original sole occupants.

FUTURE

In the past the lion's share of the Tourism and Transport budget has gone to Tourism to fund marketing programs.

And if promises in the Democratic Alliance Party (DAP) manifesto are any guideline for future development, Tourism Cook Islands can expect a big injection of much needed dollars for marketing.

The DAP manifesto pledges to "fund a minimum NZ$ 3 million (US$ 1.47 million) in our first budget for tourism marketing and promotion."

"The funding level will be the benchmark. Thereafter, we will increase the amount in subsequent years to maintain, at the very least, the real purchasing value of the marketing dollar," says the manifesto.

For additional reports from the Cook Islands News Online, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Cook Islands News Online.

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