Kiwis are off for some fun in the sun in Rarotonga this week, thanks to the take off of the first Air New Zealand flight from Auckland to the Cook Islands following the opening of the two-way, quarantine-free travel bubble.
The first flight, NZ940, was full and departed Auckland on Monday bound for Rarotonga, “reconnecting families, helping to give a much-needed boost to the local economy,” according to Air New Zealand Chief Customer and Sales Officer, Leanne Geraghty.
She said the flight also delivered doses of the Pfizer vaccine ahead of the Cook Islands vaccination roll out and the airline has seen strong sales for flights to Rarotonga, in particular throughout July and October, coinciding with school holidays.
“It’s no surprise that Kiwis are booking in a much-needed break, especially as the temperature drops at home,” she said. “In 2019 we saw almost 110,000 New Zealanders head to Rarotonga, so it’s great to see strong demand for flights following the bubble announcement.
“Initially, we’ll be offering two flights a week on Tuesday and Saturday. This will ramp up to daily in July to ensure that we can help as many Kiwis as possible escape for some well-deserved R&R,” Geraghty said.
She said with New Zealanders comprising two-thirds of all visitors to the Cook Islands and tourism being the mainstay of the economy, the first flight taking off is a significant milestone in the region’s recovery.
Cook Islands Tourism Corporation General Manager – Australasia, Graeme West, said there is no better time for Kiwis to visit the tropical island paradise as holidaymakers will have the place to themselves.
“Tourism makes up 75% of the Cook Islands GDP, so when numbers hit zero in March 2021 when borders closed, it caused significant hardship for many people,” he said. “Today is a momentous occasion for the local community, and they will be ready to welcome the first arrivals with open arms.”
Geraghty said customers will be required to wear masks during travel to and from Rarotonga and screening questions will be asked at check-in.
To be eligible to travel, customers will need to have been in New Zealand for the preceding 14 days and due to requirements from the Government of The Cook Islands, bookings for flights to Rarotonga will be closed 48 hours prior to departure.