COVID-19 brings Māori business in Rarotonga to a standstill

By Mānia Clarke-Mamanu

Although the Cook Islands remains COVID-19 free with negative results from all 275 tests, the countrys' tourism industry has come to a standstill. Te Ao Māori News spoke to Māori frontline business owner, Chantal Napa who has had to shut up shop, following border closures last week.

Rarotonga is a popular tourist snorkelling area, but there's not a person in sight. It's a sign as to why Napa is closing her doors.

Chantal Napa, (Ngāti Porou ki Harataunga) says, “Our income in Concierge, Chantal's Concierge is a hundred percent relied on tourism. We had to spend a month cancelling the next three months of bookings.”

Chantal Napa. Source/File.

The reputable agency were gearing up for the busy season, with 174 bookings for March alone, by holidaymakers keen to experience what the island has to offer - has come to a halt. Chantal Napa continues:

“To communicate to our important clients about what was happening, what would be happening, what's not happening, especially with their bookings.

“Would they get refunded? Would they not get refunded? Could we postpone? Could we amend?”

This week the Cook Island government released details of its’ $61 million economic package and criteria for businesses to apply for assistance over the next three months. Napa explains how she felt when the announcement was made.

“I wanted to read first, what are we entitled to, what's fair.

“What can I do to help and what can the government do to help so that we can meet together.”

Tourism is the island nations’ main industry generating up to seventy percent of revenue.

Hence the unprecedented move by the government to offer a wage subsidy and unemployment benefit to those laid off due to COVID-19. Napa again shares how her life has changed since the lockdown.

“It's like a reset for us as family, as friends to connect again cause a lot of us are time rich again.

“We're writing letters, we're ringing people, we're checking how they are. Umm, we're going for walks more.”

Chantal and her crew have time to plan how they can improve their service and quality time with whānau, when the borders reopen.