Christopher Cocker said culture was at the centre of what was on offer in the Pacific and a recent global meeting had emphasised the need for indigenous people to have more of a voice in the way tourism was planned and developed.
Cocker says tourists to the Pacific region need to be encouraged to branch out when travelling to the region, so that they can gain a more authentic experience of the diverse cultures they are visiting.
“A… Cook Islands experience is not just lying around poolside, etc, and enjoying cocktails, the sun, sand and sea, or watching a one-off show or cultural show” said Cocker.
He encourages tourists to “go out to the communities, go out to the villages, and learn more of what’s happening there, as well as mixing and mingling with the indigenous people”.
Director of Destination Development for the Cook Islands Tourism Marketing Corporation, Metua Vaiimene, says Cook Islands Tourism “recognises that the people of the Cook Islands are the most important part of any visitor’s experience here”.
“Through the products, services, and experiences provided by people in the tourism industry, visitors will come to learn the lifestyle, heritage, culture, traditions and values of the Cook Islands.”
The country welcomed 161,362 visitors to its shores last year, a 10 per cent increase on 2016.
“As we continue to grow our tourism industry, it will become even more important for us to find ways for visitors to immerse themselves in our way of life” said Vaiimene.
“For example, we encourage our visitors to visit the pa enua, to enjoy our outdoor adventures, to attend church services, markets, and to see the cultural shows.”