Hundreds of people will gather at the Cook Islands’ first-ever international-standard resort, opened in 1977 by then-prime minister of New Zealand, Robert Muldoon, and then-premier of the Cook Islands, Sir Albert Henry. Many will be flying in from overseas.
“This is not just a reunion,” says Tiki Daniels, a former employee of the resort who has been helping to organise the reunion. “It’s bigger than that. This [commemorates] the history of tourism in the Cook Islands—without The Rarotongan, it doesn’t exist.”
Daniels and the rest of the organising committee, led by Lady Tuaine Marsters—formerly the resort’s chief accountant—have designed a programme to celebrate the past, present and future contributions of The Rarotongan family to the progress of the Cook Islands tourism industry and community.
The programme begins on Friday at 4:30pm with a tour of the resort, which has been considerably upgraded since many attendees worked there. This will be followed by a meal and entertainment from a string band.
An opening ceremony begins at 9:00am on Saturday with an opening prayer, a message of welcome, and a minute’s silence to honour resort staff who have passed away over the last 41 years.
Resort owner Tata Crocombe says there has been a remarkable response on social media to a call for names to be added to this “Roll of Honour”.
The opening ceremony will be formally opened by the Queen’s Representative, Sir Tom Marsters. It will feature messages from landowners and original shareholders—the Cook Islands government (prime minister Henry Puna and deputy prime minister Mark Brown), Air New Zealand (chief executive Chris Luxon and Cook Islands country manager Marisa Newman), and the New Zealand government-owned Tourist Hotel Corporation (Tourism minister Kelvin Davis and New Zealand High Commissioner Peter Marshall).
From 10.30am, there will be stories—stories from history, from staff past and present, guests, landowners, the resort’s business partners, traditional leaders, and the community. Saturday night will feature an island night and Sunday, a church service, closing ceremony, roast lunch and fashion show. Both a logo and a song were designed specifically to commemorate the event.
Asked about the significance of this weekend’s reunion, Puna said: “The [Rarotongan] really is the story of our tourism industry. It fills me with pride that after all these years, it’s still standing and also doing well and under Cook Islands management. That is a story to be proud of.”