'A huge relief for businesses' - Cook Islands welcomes travel bubble with NZ

The Cook Islands and New Zealand have announced a long-awaited quarantine-free travel bubble which begins on May 17. 

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There’ll be no requirement for a Covid-19 test, instead there’ll be a travel declaration and random health checks. Source: 1 NEWS

It is relief for struggling businesses in Rarotonga.

Liana Scott, president of Cook Islands Tourism Industry Council, told 1 NEWS: "Obviously I am smiling at the moment. A huge relief for businesses in the islands."

While a government wage subsidy has been available, the country which depends on tourism contributing to more than 60 per cent of its GDP has struggled. 

"It will be a process that our economists say may take a few years to get back to levels pre-Covid but the important thing is that we are starting now," Cook Islands Prime minister Mark Brown said. 

Lianna Scott. Source: 1 NEWS

While the Muri Beach Club Hotel has kept its doors open, others haven't been so lucky, Scott said. 

"They have had to make some pretty tough decisions. We are open for business, but we have everything from zero customers to five, six, seven, so nothing really that pays the bills."

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The travel bubble is set to begin on May 17. Source: 1 NEWS

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Cook Islands Tourism CEO Halatoa Fua said visitor arrivals were unchartered territory, so it would be working closely with Air New Zealand to monitor demand.

"It will be purely based on demand, as well as the health infrastructure that we have in place."

Air New Zealand will be operating two to three flights a week and then daily from July in time for the school holidays. 

Brown said the Cook Islands were prepared, with Covid-19 vaccination tents already set up at Rarotonga Hospital. 

The Pfizer vaccine rollout is also expected within the month with New Zealand's help. 

"We have the storage - the cold chain in place - the logistics lined up for delivery to the outer islands, so we'll be ready some time this month," Brown said.