Hawaiian Airlines ‘big deal’ for local tourism industry

Cook Islands News

Cook Islands tourism industry is looking forward to the arrival of Hawaiian Airlines which makes its inaugural flight into Rarotonga tonight. The first flight from Hawaiian Airlines touches down in the evening, and a special event will be held at Rarotonga International Airport to mark its arrival.

To commemorate this special occasion, Cook Islands Tourism will be hosting a welcoming ceremony for the flight’s arrival at Rarotonga International Airport. The arrival event will feature traditional welcome and cultural performances and entertainment at the airport.

Businessman Fletcher Melvin, of Island Craft, said the arrival of Hawaiian Airlines into the market was a huge deal. “It opens up not only the Hawaiian market but also the Northern Hemisphere in general,” Melvin said. “This is a huge bonus for the Cook Islands, and it opens up a lot of possibilities.”

Melvin said he would like to see Hawaiian Airlines eventually increase its frequency to three flights per week, but “even one a week is a good start”. “We’re going to be seeing a lot more people from the Northern Hemisphere as a result of this.”

Melvin said the arrival of Hawaiian Airlines would allow for more diversity in a tourism market that was currently very reliant on New Zealand tourists. “I think there’s a chance for businesses to think outside the box. I would encourage many of them to actually take the flight and see what Hawaii has to offer us,” he said.

From May 20 to October 22, HA495 is scheduled to arrive at 2225 Saturday night, and HA496 departs at 2335 Sunday night. Melvin advised operators to talk to the Cook Islands Tourism Corporation to get an idea about how to capitalise on the arrival of Hawaiian Airlines.

The Edgewater Resort and Spa general manager Andrew Whittaker said it was preparing to welcome Hawaiian tourists to the resort this weekend. “It’s our job to be good ambassadors for the Cook Islands,” Whittaker said. “It’s going to be a pretty big deal for us.”

Whittaker said it would be working “pretty closely” with Hawaiian Airlines over the next few months. “I think we’re going to see a mostly older demographic (from these flights), with a lot of disposable income. They’re likely to be here for a week or so, and spend up at the restaurants.”

However, Rarotongan Resort and Lagoonarium executive chairman Tata Crocombe said while extra connectivity was good, “you’re looking at a very small market at this stage”. “Any access is good access, but it won’t make much of a difference until it moves to three flights a week,” Crocombe said. “That’s the second-best outcome after daily flights.”

Crocombe said Jetstar’s flights from Sydney which arrives next month, will make a bigger dent by virtue of being three times a week. “We’re talking much bigger percentages from that,” he said.