Auckland, NEW ZEALAND – July 31, 2020: 2:19pm (RNZ PACIFIC): Pacific Island states are looking at risky money making opportunities as they desperately seek ways to revive their economies hit hard by Covid-19.
Tourism keeps many countries and territories such as the Cook Islands afloat but the hotels and resorts have been empty since last March when borders were closed.
â€œWe go down to Muri Beach early in the morning to walk the dogs and this is where a lot of the tourist accommodation is concentrated,â€ says Cook Islands journalist Florence Syme Buchanan.
â€œMuri is quite famous for being the golden strip of the Cook Islands. And with every hotel closed, weâ€™re walking along this beach thatâ€™s normally packed with tourists â€¦. itâ€™s just empty.â€
Tourism is worth at least 87 percent of the Cook Islands economy.
â€œWe are in very serious, dire straits. There is deep, deep concern amongst the business sector.â€
She talks to the Detail’s Sharon Brettkelly from her home near Muri Beach, saying thereâ€™s one upside to the disappearing tourists â€“ have a listen to the podcast to find out what that is.
The situation may also force diversification and a return to agricultural ventures of old.
With no date for a Pacific travel bubble, she says businesses are looking at other opportunities such as reviving exports of fruit and vegetables â€“ chillies, papaya and avocados for example.
But RNZ Pacific’s Johnny Blades tells Brettkelly that some countries are looking at high risk ventures … â€œincluding deep sea mining, which is a real area of fraught debateâ€.
â€œPeople are struggling â€¦ thereâ€™s so much uncertainty.â€
In Fiji 40,000 jobs have been knocked out â€“ â€œitâ€™s the economic motherlode for the country,â€ says Blades.
Collin Tukuitonga is the associate dean for Pacific programmes at Auckland University’s medical school.
He said Pacific countries can’t afford to wait and itâ€™s time to get a bubble going with the Cook Islands and Niue to start.
â€œSomehow weâ€™ve got to look carefully at the transit arrangements so thereâ€™s no contamination, and that people from the U.S donâ€™t hop on the plane to Rarotonga,â€ he said.
â€œThese are management issues to address. So for example, thereâ€™s I think some very good ideas about how to separate people in transit. I donâ€™t see it as a show-stopper â€¦ you can manage it. Itâ€™s never risk-free, itâ€™s never zero.
But I donâ€™t think we give enough credit to border officials. There has to be some work done to make sure those protocols are in place,â€ he said. (PACNEWS)