The travel trade and clients have responded with enthusiasm to the Cook Islands Government’s announcement that two-way quarantine-free travel between New Zealand and the Cook Islands will resume on 14 January 2022 (NZ time).
However, wholesalers and agents say they are now keenly waiting for more information on border openings in Q1 2022.
As it stands, the Cook Islands will be the only international destination that people in New Zealand can travel to and from for a holiday, without any quarantine or isolation.
Island Hotels Group has appointed Heather Gordon to the new position of director of sales and marketing for its Cook Island properties Edgewater Resort & Spa and Club Raro.
Based in Auckland, Gordon will oversee the resorts’ sales and marketing activities including conference and incentive, special interest groups, wholesale and leisure.
Island Hopper Vacations in Cook Islands has re-introduced Close Encounters FIT packages to the islands of Mangaia, Mauke, Mitiaro, or Atiu.
The packages are for two or three nights with tours, transfers, dinner and some breakfasts.
Robert Skews, managing director of parent company Turama Pacific Travel Group, says Island Hopper has been using RI’s Retreat near the airport in Mauke, and notes that RI’s Hideaway is currently being renovated and will provide a more remote beachside option.
A massive consumer turnout at the Cook Islands Travel Expo in Auckland on Sunday not only illustrated the high level of interest in the destination but also how important it is for agents and brokers to keep abreast of developments there, say participants at the event.
‘People were talking not only about the islands of Rarotonga and Aitutaki but also wanted to know about the outer islands and the differences between them,’ says Alana Eli, New Zealand / Australia represntative with Turama Pacific Travel group, the parent company of Island Hopper Vacations.
The Cook Islands and (to a lesser extent) Australian bubbles have at least provided some green shoots in a challenging time and led to a change of attitude amongst brokers, says Steve Lee, director at NZ Travel Brokers.
A number of members have also found success in domestic travel, events and conferences – something they should not abandon when more borders open, Lee adds.
‘It’s a bit like only selling socks in a menswear shop, but at least our brokers are actually selling something instead of only handling credits and refunds.’
Cook Islands Tourism is hosting a Cook Islands Trade Expo featuring Rarotonga, Aitutaki, Atiu and their sister islands, on Monday 5 July 2021 at the Hilton Auckland. Travel professionals will have the flexibility to attend the expo anytime that is convenient for them between 10am and 8pm. Destination presentations will take place at 11.30am, 2.00pm, 4.00pm and 6.00pm.
Demand for travel to the Cook Islands has exceeded expectations as New Zealanders respond to the once in a lifetime opportunity of having the tropical island to themselves.
Graeme West, general manager for Cook Islands Tourism Australasia, says since the travel bubble between the two countries opened last week, bookings and enquiries have been much higher than anticipated. Air New Zealand has added 16 more flights in July and additional flights through to October.
The Cook Islands has created a new virtual reality feature online, showcasing six of the nation’s 15 islands.
Agents can navigate their way virtually around popular islands such as Rarotonga and Aitutaki from a computer, tablet or mobile device, whilst utilising the 360 navigation tool for an expanded outlook on accommodation, lagoons, scenic views and sites, plus dining facilities and activity locations.
A selection of 56 self catering properties and holiday homes in Rarotonga and Aitutaki, as well as hotels and resorts, are among the features of a new 36 page online brochure that focuses on the Cook Islands.
Released by Discover Cook Islands, a division of the Turama Pacific Travel Group, the brochure also has sample five and seven night stays in the destination. Rates are public and commissionable to bona fide travel agencies at 12%. Pricing is valid through to 31 March 2021 and the company will produce a further version for the next rate year.
A leading hospitality personality in the Cook Islands has added his voice to calls for travel between that destination and New Zealand to be opened as soon as possible.
‘There are a number of reasons that make this logical and beneficial to both countries,’ says Tata Crocombe, chairman of Aitutaki Lagoon Private Island Resort, The Rarotongan Beach Resort & Lagoonarium and other properties and products. He is also founder of hospitable.tech.ai.