Early Edition with Kate Hawkesby •

Kate Hawkesby: Is the travel bubble too late for the Cook Islands? - Early Edition with Kate Hawkesby

Early Edition with Kate Hawkesby

We have a Cooks bubble, and I’m so happy for them; they’ve waited long enough and they’ve been so desperate.
In fact, it may well be too late for some businesses there.
We had the head of the Cook Island Tourism Industry Council on the show yesterday and she was saying just how desperate they've been. She said that they were haemorrhaging local staff who’d been vanishing on one way flights to NZ every week to find work, given all the tourism work there had dried up.
Estimates were it was costing the country a million dollars in lost revenue every day that there was no bubble.
So they've been getting ready and doing the work, they’ve completed a PCR lab to allow for mass testing capabilities, training’s underway for contact tracing.
Having said that, she also said there are some grassroots Cook Islanders who don’t necessarily want a bubble, who don’t see the value or benefit of tourism there because they don’t feel directly impacted by it. People who're enjoying quiet island life as it used to be.
But what she said these people fail to understand is how much tourist dollars fund so much in the Cooks. The hospitals, the education system; they need those tourist dollars to sustain the whole economy.
So May 17th is the date, and again it’ll be interesting to see whether we Kiwis take it up. I think the Cooks gain will be our loss.
I don’t see much financial benefit to us of a Cooks bubble, I’m not sure how many Cook Islanders are going to suddenly jump on plane to NZ for a holiday here in the middle of winter? But hopefully a few of us go over there, to help them out.
Again, that remains to be seen though, given we haven’t exactly taken up the trans-Tasman bubble in our droves. There is though the prospect of an island holiday and not getting stuck, because although the PM offered up her usual bubble caveat of 'traveller beware', she also said NZ may look at mercy flights to get Kiwis home if there was an outbreak. That's to avoid putting strain on the Cooks in the eventuality of an outbreak, easing the burden for them to cope with it.
What the Cook Islands also want, of course, on top of tourist dollars, is to be vaccinated. With a small population of just 17,000, a vaccination rollout there should be easily achieved, and will of course pave the way for safer quarantine free travel.
NZ has enough Pfizer vaccine for the whole of the Cooks, and the PM says it makes sense to vaccinate the whole population at once. So does it also make sense to do that before July, by which time our vaccinators will be busy vaccinating Kiwis.
We're expecting the Cooks rollout to start at the end of this month, but the government says there’ll be further announcements on that in due course so fingers crossed for them on that too.
In the meantime, I'll be fascinated to see how many of us will be heading to Raro for some poolside cocktails. Hopefully for the Cooks sake, lots of us.
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Kate Hawkesby: Is the travel bubble too late for the Cook Islands? - Early Edition with Kate Hawkesby