Smith was delivering the prime minister’s address on behalf of Henry Puna, who was on his home island of Manihiki for “something that’s happening in June.”
“I know that he would have loved to have been here to celebrate another successful year in our industry,” Smith said.
Smith highlighted a recent report by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) that pointed to the continued economic growth of the Cook Islands.
The ADB ranked Cook Islands as the best performing economy of developing countries in the South Pacific, with the highest growth of GDP, the highest employment rate amongst young, working age people and the highest per capita income.
“All this is because of our strong performing tourism industry, and we must acknowledge the willingness of successive governments to invest and reinvest in tourism,” Smith said.
“It’s very satisfying to see the returns of that investment recognised internationally as the best in the region.”
Although he encouraged people to enjoy their success, he also pointed out that it was not accomplished overnight.
“We in the tourism industry sing for our supper every single day, we can’t just fix potholes every four years,” Smith said, drawing laughs and cheers from the audience.
With any dip in quality, perceived or otherwise, a potential customer could migrate to a competing operator or destination, which would result in a loss to the Cook Islands economy, he added.
Smith called for the country’s infrastructure to match and get ahead of the “stunning” year of Cook Islands growth.
“We must keep our foot firmly planted on the pedal or face going backwards.
“We must incentivise investment and reinvestment to ensure that we continue to be innovative (in) developing and staying ahead of the competition.”