Tourists To Cook Islands Generally Satisfied, Challenges Remain

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Survey shows concerns with quality of services, accommodations continue

By Ben Chapman-Smith

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, April 26, 2014) – Visitors to the Cook Islands are generally leaving as satisfied customers but issues like the quality of public services and accommodation do need attention, according to a new report.

The most recent results of the International Visitors Survey, carried out between October 1 and December 31 by Auckland University of Technology (AUT), have just been released.

AUT’s report shows that the Cook Islands tourism industry performed well during the period, with visitor satisfaction levels remaining very high.

Of the 335 respondents, 96 per cent indicated that they want to return to the Cook Islands.

Unsurprisingly, visitors said the most appealing features of the country are the unspoilt environment, the warm local people and the peaceful atmosphere.

However, the report also highlights a number of areas of concern - most of which are not new.

"The least appealing elements of the Cook Islands experience are considered to be the quality and cost of public services, facilities and infrastructure, the numerous stray dogs and the poor quality and value for money of accommodation and food and beverage," it reads.

Issues around environmental degradation should also be monitored and managed carefully, the report says.

The biggest complaint was about public services and facilities, of which 14 per cent of respondents expressed their disappointment.

In particular, complaints were made about the frequency of public transport, opening hours of shops and markets, the state of roads, footpaths and public toilets, run-down buildings, and poor internet and cell phone services.

One visitor said: "I wanted to shop for arts and crafts but all the stores were closed because it was Sunday. That was highly disappointing."

Another complained about large holes in the road, posing a risk to scooter drivers.

"Lack of clean public toilet facilities," said another person.

Another gripe was around the standard of accommodation; nine per cent of those surveyed commented on the high cost and poor quality.

"Visitors surveyed mentioned that the cost of accommodation is expensive for the value received, that some accommodation places are in need of an upgrade, and that in some establishments, staff seem to take no interest in guests," the report says.

One person described the accommodation as "a bit old and needed tidying up".

The report concludes by saying it is important for the country to look at addressing these concerns.

"Overall the Cook Islands sector is performing well but it remains important to look at ways to increase visitor yield in a sustainable manner that enhances local economic linkages."

Members of the local tourism industry are being invited to attend a seminar next week, where Professor Simon Milne, who co-ordinates the country’s online International Visitors Survey, will discuss the latest findings.

Metua Vaiimene, the Tourism Corporation’s Director of Destination Development, said the seminar will be a chance for those in the industry to discuss the results.

It will also be an opportunity to give Milne feedback on how AUT can expand the survey, he said.

"We’ll also be getting him to meet with key people in Government and at the Tourism Corporation, and also with key members of the industry council."

Another point of discussion at next Monday’s seminar will be how to increase the number of people taking part in the visitors’ survey.

Over the last three-month period, from October 1 to December 31, 1267 visitors were contacted by email and asked to take part in the online survey. Of those, 335 responses were received - a conversion rate of 26 per cent.

Vaiimene said getting more responses will provide more robust data but visitors’ email addresses are currently only being collected from a few sources.

"We need more sources, so one thing we’ll be encouraging during the seminar is for more members of the industry to get involved in collecting email addresses."

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