Cook Islands tourism to strengthen Māori niche market

By Mānia Clarke-Mamanu

Safely lifting the borders to international travellers is the next priority for the Cook Islands government, after the repatriation of its remaining residents stuck in Auckland by the end of this month. 

Cook Islands tourism, which has been tasked with focusing on the New Zealand market, wants to strengthen the cultural exchange with their Māori relatives. 

Director of Destination Development, Metua Vaiimene, says to live long and fulfilling lives involves being sustainable both economically and culturally.

“One of those niche markets could be our whānau from New Zealand who come here to reconnect with their tūpuna, with their tīpuna, with their family here,” says Vaiimene.

“Come to enrich us with their experiences and come to enrich themselves with our experiences.”

Metua Vaiimene, Director Destination Develpment, Cook Islands Tourism Corporation.  Photo/File

Under its Kia Orana Values, Tourism Cook Islands want operators to offer more authentic cultural experiences, from the big resorts to local owners.

“It’s good having New Zealand Māori come to learn how our ancestors survived,” says Tumutoa Tours operator Ngametua Mamanu, “the culture and experience, like how to make an umu.”

Ngametua Mamanu, Tumutoa Tours.  Photo/File

Last year, over 170, 000 international tourists visited the paradise islands and over 60 percent were from Aotearoa. Metua is keen to foster a cultural exchange with tourism Māori. 

“Our brothers and sisters in New Zealand can teach us ways in which we can make our cultural interpretation authentic for our visitors,” he says.

“But also show the respect and the mana that is deserved of our tīpuna, our tūpuna and their kōrero, their legacy they have left for us.”

Te Marae Ora is increasing its clinical resources to treat coronavirus should it arrive on its shores, with the build of a new negative pressure room that helps prevent cross-contamination across rooms, and test kits supplied by WHO to test for and diagnose Covid-19 in Rarotonga.

The second repatriation cohort returned to Rarotonga today.