A national poll run by this newspaper earlier this week revealed a majority of the people do not want to limit the number of visitors coming into the country.
The poll, which had 100 respondents from Rarotonga and the Pa Enua, including the northern group islands, showed 29 per cent supported limiting tourists coming to the Cook Islands.
Twenty-one per cent were “not sure” when asked if they thought the Cook Islands should put a cap on the number of tourists visiting the country each year.
Out of the 50 per cent who said “no”, 20 per cent were below the age of 30 years, 48 per cent fall in the 30 to 59-year age bracket, while the remaining 32 per cent belonged to 60-85 years.
Most of the people (about 66 per cent) who supported the idea of putting a cap on tourist numbers were aged over 50.
The suggestion to cap the number of tourists visiting the country came from a local MP.
The MP was responding to a government report which stated that the standard of Cook Islands infrastructure is not up to the task of handling a significantly higher number of visitors to the country.
Visitor arrivals to the Cook Islands soared to an all-time high after the country welcomed 161,362 visitors to its shores last year. This represented an increase of 10 per cent from the number that was recorded in 2016 (146,473 visitors).
Meanwhile Cook Islands Tourism’s director of destination development Metua Vaiimene says the corporation is launching a new initiative to better understand locals’ views and opinions on the tourism industry.
The initiative, known as the Community Awareness and Attitudes Survey, will be a first attempt anywhere in the South Pacific to gain a detailed sense of the degree to which the local community supports tourism, and the benefits and costs the community associate with the tourism industry, he said.
“We are happy to advise that Cook Islands Tourism Corporation has had plans in place for some time now to conduct a Community Survey about Tourism,” Vaiimene said.
“With the help of the New Zealand Tourism Research Institute, the Cook Islands Tourism Community Awareness and Attitudes Survey will be a first attempt anywhere in the region to gain a detailed understanding of the support for tourism in the community.”
Professor Simon Milne from the New Zealand Research Institute explained the survey to attendees of Cook Islands Tourisms’ last Global Breakfast Update held in May at the Edgewater Resort.
The survey is tentatively set to launch on June 27. Vaiimene says it is now being translated into Cook Islands Maori, and sponsors and prizes are being reconfirmed.
During the high season (July-August), the survey will focus on Rarotonga, Aitutaki and Atiu, and over the November-January period, the survey will run again across the whole nation, including the northern group.