Cook Island Visitor Arrivals At Record Numbers

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New Zealand tourists leading growth in otherwise stiff market

By Ben Chapman-Smith

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, June 18, 2014) – Total arrivals hit over 10,000 for the first May ever, with 10,074 visitors. Of those, 7024 were from New Zealand.

Graeme West, General Manager Cook Islands Tourism New Zealand, says it is fantastic to see continued growth and record numbers, especially during a period when the job of increasing visitor arrivals from New Zealand has been exceptionally challenging for both his team and the industry.

"We’re fighting for every visitor at the moment. Competition from other destinations is fierce. Hawaiian Airlines’ entry into the market last year suddenly put Hawaii on the map for Kiwis. That led to other island destinations’ national airlines becoming increasingly aggressive, resulting in consumers being bombarded with deals and offers on a daily basis."

West says ongoing analysis of Cook Islands Tourism New Zealand’s strategy and implementing new initiatives was vitally important.

"One of the keys is demonstrating why the Cook Islands is the ultimate tropical paradise holiday destination and not always relying on a price point to deliver."

He said his organisation is constantly reviewing what it does and has new strategies in place to hopefully drive bigger increases in the next year and beyond.

"Elevating our market presence is critical. We’ll be focusing further on ensuring we’re maximising every dollar spent and collaborating closely with local operators."

West said that despite the challenges, it was pleasing that visitor arrivals from New Zealand continued to rise.

"Financial year to date (July 2013 – May 2014) New Zealand arrivals stand at 66,977 versus 66,016 in 2012/13 and 62,019 in the 2011/12 financial year (excluding Cook Islanders living in New Zealand) "

The record May numbers are consistent with a recent trend of continued growth, says the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development.

"Growth in visitor arrivals so far this calendar year has improved markedly from the performance in early 2013. In the last 11 months (the 2013-14 financial year), eight months have been the highest seasonal totals on record," said MEFM Economic Advisor James Webb.

Webb said the Cook Islands didn’t receive more than 10,000 visitors in a month until July 2007.

"It wasn’t until 2009 that another month broke the 10,000 mark. In 2013-14 so far, seven months have had arrivals above 10,000 with June still to come."

Visitor arrivals have increased by 1.7 per cent so far in this financial year, compared to 2012‑13.

Webb said this is consistent with the Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Update, which estimated 1.7 per cent growth for the 2013-14 year.

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