Wednesday 16th June, 2021.
The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly had devastating impacts on Pacific tourism but we must not overly discount the industry’s resilience and potential to bounce back as a key economic driver and an important enabler of progress towards achieving sustainable development goals (SDGs). These were the sentiments shared by Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO) Chief Executive, Mr. Christopher Cocker.
Noting the recent tourism reactivation in the Cook Islands and French Polynesia, Mr. Cocker highlighted that these experiences can provide important learning opportunities for other countries in the Pacific as they plan for border re-opening and tourism reactivation.
“The Cook Islands and French Polynesia have traditionally been key tourism destinations in the Pacific. What we are seeing from their initial re-opening is positive and will provide other SPTO members with important lessons on tourism reactivation”, he said.
Having opened a travel bubble with New Zealand on May 17th, the Cook Islands experience has been promising, according to Cook Islands Tourism CEO, Mr. Halatoa Fua.
“Thus far, the demand from Kiwi travelers has been strong. Air New Zealand have already added additional flights and we are expecting that air capacity will return to about 60% of pre-COVID levels from July this year”, said Mr. Fua.
Mr. Fua also confirmed that the country’s vaccination programme has been a key enabler of the travel bubble with New Zealand. As of Monday 14th June, 9,589 people of the 10,189 eligible for vaccination had received their first dose, whilst 5,218 have received their second dose and are fully vaccinated.
Similarly, French Polynesia’s progressive re-opening is providing promising indications for the appetite for travel and tourism. Tahiti Tourisme CEO, Jean-Marc Mocellin, confirmed that hotel and flight bookings for the next few months have reached unprecedented levels since the beginning of the pandemic, with particular interest from the US and French markets.
Through its UNWTO Confidence Index, The United Nations World Tourism Organisation has indicated a slow rise in confidence in travel and tourism but has emphasized that vaccination programmes and effective coordination and communication is a key component of tourism recovery. In a global survey, among UNWTO’s panel of tourism experts on the expected time of recovery from the impacts of COVID-19, 60% of the experts expected international tourism to rebound from 2022, while 40% were optimistic about a potential rebound in 2021.
Further information on travel requirements for the Cook Islands and French Polynesia may be found on the following sites: