Recognition in Sustainability

Cook Islands Tourism

Because of the efforts of local tourism operators and communities to become more environmentally conscious and develop more sustainable practices, a leading travel brand has recognised the Cook Islands with a prestigious award.

Lonely Planet, which began publishing travel guides nearly a half-century ago, has chosen the Cook Islands to be a recipient of its prestigious “Best in Travel” award for 2022.

The winners of the award, which is entering its 17th year in 2022, are selected from thousands of possible countries, cities, and regions annually. A criterion for 2022 selection was a demonstrated commitment to developing tourism in a manner that considers sustainable practices which conserve natural and cultural resources. 

Other destinations recognised for their dedication to sustainability include Norway, which is home to the world’s first energy producing hotel, and Freiburg, a city in Germany where there are twice as many bicycles as cars.

A panel of experts scored each potential destination based on its demonstrable commitment to sustainability, inclusivity, and community in tourism; preparedness for welcoming visitors in 2022; and general appeal. 

The announcement of next year’s “Best of Travel” award recipients recognises the Cook Islands for legislating Marae Moana, the marine-protected area legally established by Cook Islands lawmakers in 2017. It also identifies the Mana Tiaki Certification Programme, an accreditation programme run by Cook Islands Tourism and to which many local tourism operators adhere, as evidence of a commitment to sustainability. The programme assesses and certifies a tourism product based on its performance in, and impacts on, water and sanitation, biodiversity, solid waste, energy, and miscellaneous areas, ensuring the travel industry adheres to conservation-focused best practices. 

Another example of the country’s efforts to make tourism sustainable is the Cook Islands Sustainable Development Policy Framework, which articulates strategies for ensuring tourism advances the well-being of the Cook Islands people and environment. 

“We are thrilled to win the Best in Travel award from Lonely Planet,” says Noeline Mateariki, marketing manager for Cook Islands Tourism Corporation. “A lot of people have been working really hard to develop policies and programmes that can help us make sure tourism in the Cook Islands remains sustainable and continues to promote the well-being of our people and our place.”

For more information about the Cook Islands and how its government and tourism industry is planning to accommodate international guests back after an extended hiatus, visit