Water safety in the spotlight

Monday October 01, 2018 Written by Published in Environment
Care needs to be taken on and in the waters of the Cook Islands. 18100113a Care needs to be taken on and in the waters of the Cook Islands. 18100113a

Rules and regulations around tourism operators are coming, says director of Destination Development Cook Islands Tourism Metua Vaiimene, “and we must get ready as a community and as operators for this by adopting a culture of compliance now”.

 

His comment is in response to a number of complaints from the community and tour operators in relation to questions around the safety practices of some tour operators.

There have been incidents, the latest last Friday, where tourists have had to be rescued.

“We are receiving complaints from other operators and from the public regarding this,” he says.

“In particular operators who take children must have regulations, as children do not have the ability to make decisions under pressure.

“There is currently, however, no formal safety framework robust enough to deal with all tour operations. Many operators are developing their own safety frameworks and the Water Safety Council are working on standards.”

He encourages operators to join the accreditation scheme Cook Islands Quality Assured, as a framework which will guide operators into safety practice. This has minimum standards when managing risks, including better information for the tourist so they are comfortable making the right choices to stay safe, providing a better experience all around.

This along with public liability are still voluntary.

While many tour operators have got on board, there are still some who are not complying with safety standards or following guidelines, and putting their visitors at risk, says Vaiimene.

 “The thing is that currently we have no compulsory licensing framework for tour operators, for example we can’t say these are the standards you must adhere to. This will change, but in the meantime, to keep operators and visitors safe, we do encourage they follow the frameworks we already have in place.”

Safety is paramount, says acting secretary of transport Ned Howard. “We are yet to look at regulations, and if that is the answer, or working with specific operators to ensure the safety of the visitor.

“We encourage operators to be actively mindful and proactive about safety around their operations. We need a safety conscious culture of change.”

Owner-operator of Concierge Chantal Napa is a booking agent for most of the activities on the island, and says she will not advertise any operation until it has public liability. 

“This is one benchmark standard, of a few, that we should all be aiming to uphold. If we are going to bring thousands of tourists a year to our little magical paradise, we need to ensure insurance is in place before we send them out,” says Napa.

She hires snorkelling gear, but always checks that the people who are going to use it can actually swim.

“These are just basic things but will go a long way towards keeping the operator and the visitor safe.

“We need to raise the bar on tourism.”

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