Turtle Tour Operators Praised for Commitment to Refreshed Code of Conduct

Cook Islands Tourism
Congratulations to the 9 turtle tour operators who have formally affirmed their dedication to the MOU.

Te Mato Manava Turoto Cook Islands Tourism (CIT) would like to congratulate nine leading turtle-tour operators who have shown their dedication towards responsible tourism practices through the recent signing of a refreshed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). Ariimoana, Ariki Adventures, Charlotte Piho Turtle Tours, Go Local Cook Islands, Katu Kanga Turtle Tours, KiteSUP, Moana Sea Scooters, Ocean Toa, and Rarotonga Turtle Tours have formally affirmed their dedication to visitor safety, operational best-practice, community wellbeing and environmental sustainability, as the industry works together towards a safer and more sustainable approach.

The MOU is a living document which is updated periodically to reflect changes in stakeholder concerns and operational best practices. The latest version is an output of the most robust consultation process to date, with all tour operators invited to contribute, and direct input from both the local community and governing bodies such as the Ministry of Marine Resources (MMR), National Environment Service (NES), Ministry of Transport, and Internal Affairs.

Key updates to the MOU include:

  • Strengthened safety measures: Clearer definition of operator responsibilities towards health and safety, including standard operating procedures, emergency procedures, and guest suitability assessments.
  • Improved environmental sustainability: Emphasis on the role of operators as guardians of the environment, minimising impacts on turtles and their habitat, and promoting responsible behaviour among guests.
  • Elevated customer service: Commitment to providing high-quality customer care, exceeding expectations, and actively seeking feedback for continuous improvement.
  • Respect and good faith: Encouragement for operators to act with consideration for the community, respecting Aronga Mana, landowners, and each other.

"While CIT lack the mandate to formally govern the tourism industry, we are committed to helping our operators provide safe and environmentally responsible experiences for our visitors,” said Tina Kae, Industry Development Manager at CIT. “We are not pretending to be water safety or conservation experts, but rather use our position and resources to help facilitate a collaborative approach. We are grateful to those who have helped its development”.

The refreshed MOU, which is a completely voluntary and self-governing code of conduct, comes at a time when formal regulation appears to be on the horizon. Following a joint collaboration between CIT, NES and MMR, a recent release by NES announced the approval by the Rarotonga Environment Authority (REA) for the development of an environmental management plan for areas within Rarotonga that are being impacted by unsustainable tourism operations, with a specific focus on turtle tours operating in the southern passages.

A full copy of the MOU can be accessed here. For inquiries and further information, please contact: Tina Kae, Industry Development Manager, Cook Islands Tourism Corporation [email protected]