Brown: Cook Islands’ economic recovery better than expected

Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon

The Cook Islands’ prime minister says the economic recovery from covid-19 and closed borders is tracking above forecast.

Mark Brown said the borders reopened on January 13, and there was a slow start in the first quarter of the year.

He said by the second quarter, there were more than a dozen flights a week.

While New Zealand has been their only significant source of direct business, he says the economy has been going from strength to strength.

“Despite challenges with key market success, and reduced flights and seats into the Cook Islands, by the third quarter – July to September – we were outperforming our 2019 levels.

“We expect to end 2022 at 115,000 visitor arrivals and our economic recovery is ahead of expectations as a result.”

Meanwhile, Brown announced a direct flight from Rarotonga to Honolulu, Hawaii, from next year.

He said the Cook Islands Government had allocated $US6.4 million to underwriting the flights.

Brown said the flights will not only help the economy but provide their people with direct access to the American state

He said the potential prospects, valuable partnerships, and mutual benefits are huge.

“So, from the 20th of May, 2023 there will be a weekly flight between Honolulu and Rarotonga. These flights will provide important access to the North American market for the Cook Islands’ tourism sector, forming a key pillar in our recovery.

“Hawaiian Airlines is no stranger to the Cook Islands having served this very route from 1987 to 1995.”

The route will be serviced by an Airbus A321 Neo, with 16 premium seats, 45 extra-comfort premium economy seats, and 128 economy seats.

The government has also announced a direct link to Sydney.

Jetstar will initially fly two return flights a week to the New South Wales capital from June 29, 2023.

Earlier this year the Cook Islands tourism sector called for more direct flights to Rarotonga, especially from Sydney and Los Angeles.

Rarotonga Airport.

Rarotonga Airport. Photo: Airport Authority Cook Islands