‘The Cook Islands’ constitutional relationship with New Zealand is such that Cook Islanders are New Zealand citizens and so are entitled to expect that the New Zealand government would prioritise their interest over other overseas destinations.
‘More than 100,000 Kiwis travel to the Cook Islands each year, so this would be a great test market prior to opening to a larger market such as Australia,’ adds Crocombe.
‘There has not been a single case of the coronavirus in the Cook Islands and the public health systems of the Cook Islands and New Zealand are harmonised and working off the same protocols.’
He says tourism makes up 87% of GDP for the Cook Islands and would be the fastest, most efficient way to resuscitate the Cook Islands’ economy rather than aid.
Crocombe says given New Zealand now has only one active case, the appropriate public health protocols could be put in place quite quickly and the Cook Islands could reopen to New Zealand visitors alone within weeks.
He says the approach of the New Zealand government to respond to the wishes from Pacific Island governments on the matter is the correct one.
‘The separate question as to whether the market will respond to the opening of the Cook Islands to New Zealand is probably best guided by history, ie after SARS and MERS. Travel markets recovered very quickly to their long-term growth curves. I don't see this as being any different.
‘It is literally in the DNA of homo sapiens to travel. That is how we populated the entire globe. This virus is not going to change millions of years of evolution propelling humans towards travel.’