CITC’s Halatoa Fua said while the organisation did not approve funding for the original Film Raro proposal, it may look at doing so in future if it can be shown there is a financial benefit.
“Given we are dealing with tax payer’s funds, Film Raro is an avenue that the corporation can look into for marketing leverage once there is evidence of a return on investment.”
Film Raro organiser Stan Wolfgramm has his sights set on an annual event, but has said this will only happen with financial help because organisers used up their resources the first time around.
“We’d like to be back again, and we can’t continue without support. But anyone who does support us will get major benefits back. We know that we can provide a lot of benefits to tourism.”
Wolfgramm said CITC declined his original proposal for funding, saying there were no benefits to tourism.
Fua said Film Raro’s proposal was turned down because it was not related to tourism.
“The original proposal was designed to build a film industry in the Cook Islands which falls outside the corporation’s mandate to promote and develop tourism in the Cook Islands.”
But Wolfgramm said the film festival has direct benefits to tourism because it will market the Cook Islands to an international audience.
“A lot of people don’t know where the Cook Islands is. They don’t know if there’s power, if there’s water, they don’t know what it’s like. It’s not promoted enough. When people see the (Film Raro) films, they can see there’s power, there’s water, they can see what it’s like. And the film market is a massive one.”
The films are an effective way to market the Cook Islands as a tourism destination because it is different to other marketing strategies in the Pacific, said Wolfgramm – whose company Drum Productions signed a memorandum of understanding with Film NZ – a company that deals with locations for the New Zealand film industry – in August last year, where it was agreed Film NZ would help to promote the Cook Islands as New Zealand’s tropical destination.
“You can’t just show palm trees and sandy beaches, because everybody does that. Film Raro gives it a point of difference,” said Wolfgramm.
Fua agreed it is important to give the Cooks a point of difference in the tourism industry, but said the original proposal from Wolfgramm did not provide enough evidence that there would be a return on investment.
“The Cook Islands is always looking for different ways to promote the destination, and look for investment opportunities that provide guaranteed returns and are valued as partners and not funding agents,” he said.
“While the Cook Islands’ point of difference is its people, its stunning environment, its authentic culture and unique activities, at the end of the day, we have a duty to the tax payers to ensure that we obtain the visitor arrivals and economic return anticipated from Tourism through its marketing strategies. That is our primary objective,” he said.
Fua said Film Raro was a successful event that CITC supported in other ways, such as through Facebook posts about the film festival and providing financial support to the Stone Brothers on their visit, including help with accommodation and activities to help familiarise them with the island.
“Film Raro should be congratulated in the work they have done to start a film industry in the Cook Islands. On the domestic front, the event has created local stars from the pool of many talented and charismatic Cook Islanders. Well done.
“On the international front, there has been some valued public relations, and the corporation has supported this with ensuring the information is distributed through our media framework.”