Cook Islands is open to all visitors regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, says the country’s tourism body.
This following overseas calls for travellers to boycott the country over a select committee’s decision to reinstate homosexual acts in the Crimes Bill.
Cook Islands Tourism is concerned at recent publicity about the criminalisation of gay sex.
Chief executive officer Halatoa Fua said it was disappointing that some misinformation regarding the issue appearing in social and overseas media could be detrimental to the Cook Islands’ reputation and tourism industry.
The country was widely regarded as a friendly and safe Pacific tourism destination where all visitors were welcome, Fua said.
“I wish to emphasise that no decision has yet been made,” Fua said.
The report and would be presented to Cabinet for discussion before being tabled in Parliament early next year, he said.
The Corporation’s comments were echoed by the Cook Islands Tourism Industry Council, which said the industry welcomed everybody.
Council secretary Brent Hayden, who operates Coral Sands Apartments in Rarotonga, said: “The pink dollar is an important factor in the tourism industry around the world and they are always welcomed at our place. The industry also shares the same belief.
“We fully support Halatoa’s comments and welcome all visitors to our accommodations.”
According to New Zealand’s Stuff news site, a Pacific community advocate is urging tourists to boycott the Cook Islands after the nation went back on a promise to decriminalise homosexuality.
Grey Lynn Business Association leader Soala Wilson said it showed Pacific nations continued to “deny the rainbow community their right to exist”.
Wilson had a very religious upbringing, “as many Pacific people do”, and would read the Bible before breakfast, lunch and dinner. “I lived most of my childhood in fear that my parents would find out I was attracted to girls.”
Cook Islands’ Te Tiare Association issued a statement yesterday, saying the reinstatement of the criminal clause was “of the gravest concern” to the gay, lesbian and bisexual community. “We will continue to protest at this impingement on our Constitutional rights as citizens of this country.”
The statement was issued by Te Tiare’s Valentino Wichman: “In recent years the issue of homosexuality and the stigma attached with it has become an ever-evolving conversation point.
“Even though we do not experience the extreme acts of violence and murder against our Rainbow community, we still have people living in fear of being themselves as they feel that they won’t be accepted or shunned by their community or family.”