Cocker points out that of SPTO’s 20 members only three – Fiji, French Polynesia and Cook Islands – are currently open to tourists.
He says five others – Samoa, Vanuatu, Niue, Tonga and Kiribati – have communicated intent to open. ‘However, they are all at different stages and things are changing constantly,’ Cocker adds.
The other 12 members have not shared any plans with the organisation about reopening.
‘The key lessons from those that have opened are that the safety of the visitors as well as the locals is paramount and a key to this is a high vaccination rate. There needs to be robust heath and safety protocols at the border, the (tourism) industry and the country need to be prepared, and collaboration amongst the key stakeholders is essential.’
Cocker says that as the Pacific continues to open it will find itself in a highly competitive situation with other countries around the world.
‘One thing we know is that we need to diversify more into niche markets and highlight things like our geology, heritage and culture.’
He says pre-Covid much of the imagery was around sand, sea and sun. 'Lots of places have that and after a while it all looks the same. Markets like bird watching, eco-tourism, honeymoons and meetings and incentives are some of the areas to focus on.'