TODAY |

Cook Islands businesses record huge uptick in bookings ahead of travel bubble opening

Cook Islands businesses have reported a big upsurge in bookings and inquiries since the travel bubble with New Zealand was announced yesterday.

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It’s welcome news for those struggling in the tourist reliant nation. Source: 1 NEWS

Hotels and airlines in the Pacific paradise have been inundated with new bookings, as they look forward to the rebirth of its tourism industry, which makes up 65 per cent of the nation's GDP.

Being without tourists for 14 months has been tough on the country's only domestic carrier, Air Rarotonga, but a good local market and government subsidy has kept it afloat with no loss of staff.

Aitutaki, only an hours flight from Rarotonga, makes up 70 per cent of its business, so the airline is readying to increase its schedule.

"We are looking forward to welcoming all the Kiwis and we have the aircraft and staff just waiting for people to come," Air Rarotonga general manager Sarah Moreland said.

There are hopes the revival of the tourism industry will stop the flow of young people leaving to find employment in New Zealand.

Another major concern has been the reduced flights putting pressure on local freight demands.

"A lot of tourism operators have been really worried about getting enough stock in when business picks up, so having the extra planes come in will relieve some of the freight pressure we've been experiencing," Chamber of Commerce president Fletcher Melvin said.

The Tourism Industry Council is ready for all eventualities and have prepared a Kia Orana care package in case there is a change in alert levels and visitors find themselves stranded.

"Tourism operators in the Cook Islands will offer specially subsidised rates to assist our Kiwi visitors here on the island to ensure they don't break the bank," manager of The Islander Hotel Rohan Ellis said.