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Seven percent growth in Aussie, Kiwi visitors forecast

By Nerys Case RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, Sept 20, 2010) - Cook Islands Tourism (CIT) chief executive Carmel Beattie says that the marketing of the Sydney flight had been a resounding success.

"Of the last five flights coming in, two are booked out and three are nearly booked out," she said. "We are still marketing in Australia, but we have pulled out of ads which Qantas wanted to do with us as we can’t sell any more seats. Our job has been done on that one."

Beattie presented the CIT board’s strategic plan to around 60 industry players at a meeting at Club Raro last week. She demonstrated that she understands the major challenges which the Cook Islands face in a crowded market place.

The key aims for CIT for the next year include increasing the number of tourists and increasing the amount of visitors who reach the outer islands.

Beattie is also focusing on increasing demand for -- and participation in -- sporting and cultural events, and developing both the brand of the country and the Cook Islands as a destination.

She said that by the best predictions available, she was expecting 7 percent growth in visitors from New Zealand and Australia over the next three years.

CIT was given a rather conservative budget of NZ$4.59 million [US$3.3 million] by government for the coming year -- just a 3.2 percent rise on the previous year.

"We need to focus on markets which will give us the best bang for our buck," Beattie said. Those markets are New Zealand and Australia. "We aren’t just looking at visitor numbers, but at their expenditure and length of stay."

CIT is planning on trying to build up the number of flights into the country, including focusing on establishing a direct flight from Sydney to Rarotonga or at least a flight which comes in for two fixed seasons a year.

Other ongoing negotiations with airlines will be on getting a larger plane, or an extra flight on the Los Angeles to Rarotonga route, getting a fifth Pacific Blue flight from Auckland, and getting links to a seasonal direct flight in from Vancouver when Canadians are enduring freezing conditions during their winter months.

Beattie said that they were currently tendering for the redevelopment, or tweaking of the current brand.

Speaking of the current theme, ‘live differently,’ she said "At the moment, it’s not doing us any harm, but it’s a bit passive," she said.

Beattie stressed the importance of the whole community when it came to selling the Cook Islands brand.

"It’s not just the tourism industry. If we don’t have the people on the streets with us it’s not a good thing for the name and reputation of the Cook Islands. We need to keep the community involved in the journey with us," Beattie said.

Beattie and the rest of the board are keen to get the Cook Islands brand out into the general buzz of social networking and the internet.

"The big thing is conversion," Beattie said. "Lots of people are keen to go to a beautiful Pacific island. What we want to do is convert them to a Cook Islands holiday."

CIT’s North America and Canada Roadshow started at the weekend.

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