Cook Islands removes departure fees, upgrades ports to attract cruise ships


The Cook Islands is keen to rival its South Pacific neighbours and attract more cruise ships to call on the island.

Previously, tourists tend to to rely on air travel to arrive at the destination.

Things are about to change.

Director of destination development, Metua Vaiimene told Cruise Passenger the island has recognised a need to diversify the mode of entry for tourists.

He said that although ports existed, cruise disembarkation wasn’t guaranteed due to infrastructure and visitors charges.

This has lead to significant investment to upgrade the principal international port, Avatiu and the installation of a jetty and landing facilities for ships  at Arorangi.

The Cooks government has also, this week, decided to exempt cruisers from paying departure taxes.

Mr Vaiimene said since port changes were implemented the island has been able to ensure almost every cruise ship that visits can disembark its passengers.

In 2008, 18 ships landed passengers in the Cook Islands, but an additional four were unable to do so. Things have improved this year.  Except for one cruise line, 11 ships that visited Cook Island, successfully discharged its passengers.

The one ship that opted not to stay overnight was Marina, which left after the line was told it had to pay a departure bill of $65 for each of 1,250 passengers and 760 crew.

“The recent changes to the departure tax regulations will bring the law in line with current practice,” he said.

“Anything that will reduce cost to the cruise liners and of course any savings that they can pass on to their passengers, their clients, makes the Cook Islands a more attractive cruise destination.”

He added that cruisers can expect further changes, as the tourism industry and government continue to collaborate on future investments to improve visit experience.

“The next cruise ship to the Cook Islands is expected in September at Aitutaki home to ‘the most beautiful lagoon in the world’, whilst Rarotonga will welcome its next ship in October with the newly installed welcome hut and rest shelter, and public toilets at Avatiu.”