The Cook Islands have flagged a possible quarantine-free travel bubble with New Zealand, while Australia is held back by troubling outbreaks in Melbourne and Sydney.
Deputy Prime Minister of Cook Islands Mark Brown said on Tuesday that he had “encouraging” talks with the authorities in New Zealand about opening a travel bridge between the two countries that could be revealed in as little as a week.
Now, online traffic and inquiries on Booking.com indicate that the Cook Islands are overtaking Australia as the chosen overseas destination for New Zealanders, with resorts on Rarotonga Island drawing more interest than in Melbourne and Sydney, the New Zealand Herald reports.
According to Booking.com, Kiwis’ interest in the Cook Islands has skyrocketed since last year and Rarotonga is now right behind the Gold Coast as their top destination overseas.
New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern wasn’t drawn on a date with the Cook Islands for a travel bubble.
“The Prime Minister spoke to the Cook Islands Prime Minister yesterday to convey that she has asked officials to work on timelines for reopening with realm countries,” a spokesman for Ms Ardern told the New Zealand Herald on Tuesday.
“There are no set dates yet, and any speculation at this stage would be very premature. The number one priority will continue to be the safety of both New Zealand and realm countries. No one wishes to be responsible for COVID entering into the Pacific.”
“New Zealanders comprise two-thirds of our international visitors – and the reality is they may well provide 100 per cent of our visitors for quite some time,” the agency’s Australasian general manager Graeme West said.
“With tourism responsible for over 70 per cent of the nation’s GDP, our economy has been decimated since we closed our borders in March.
“We know there are many people keen for their annual getaway to the sun and I can assure them they would receive an especially warm Cook Islands welcome. Swimming, snorkelling and cocktails sound pretty good right now.
“The Cook Islands is proud to have remained entirely COVID-free and the government will continue to take every precaution to ensure the safety of its people and visitors.”