Concerns are growing in the Cook Islands over delays to a travel bubble with New Zealand.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern yesterday revealed a travel bubble should be in place “before the end of the year”, and officials on both sides would be travelling between the Cook Islands and New Zealand to do work on the ground in the next 10 days.
Last year, pre Covid-19, tourism made up 85 per cent of the nation’s GDP. Now, businesses are struggling to survive. Around 70 per cent of visitors were arriving from New Zealand.
Fletcher Melvin of the Cook Islands Chamber of Commerce says the country is ready for tourism now.
“It concerns us that this process will take another three weeks, more delays and things that could be done online and a lot quicker.”
Every day without tourism is another without income for the Cook Islands, says Mr Melvin.
“We're working as hard as we can to get our businesses to just survive each day making sure our employees have some money in their pockets so they can buy the essentials.
“There is no business, there is no income coming in apart from what the government is providing. There is nothing else to fall back to, we don’t have another sector, tourism is our whole GDP.”
He says the country is going through its reserves at a “rapid rate”.
“Without an economy it can only be a matter of time before we can’t pay for essential services, before the health system, the education system and just all of our services in general won’t be able to be maintained. That is always playing on our minds.
“We’re only a small country. In comparison to New Zealand it's a small town that has no income.”