Report: Cooks infrastructure threatened under tourism pressure

A GOVERNMENT report says the standard of infrastructure in the Cook Islands is not up to the task of handling the number of visitors to the country.

The report in the recently-released Half Year Economic and Fiscal update said the country’s biggest industry could be under threat if continued growth is not matched by necessary improvements.

About 160,000 visitors are expected to visit the Cook Islands this year, and a raft of consents have been issued for new accommodation developments.

But the report said that came with its own set of problems, particularly for the environment, highlighting the strain on Muri Lagoon in particular, which suffered an algae outbreak in late 2016.

“Work is being undertaken to determine the cause of the outbreak, however it is expected that high density tourism accommodation in the area may have been a contributing factor.

“To address this, the government is undertaking significant work … to improve waste water sanitation,” the report said.

The number of international tourists who could sustainably visit at any one time was curbed by the limited number of accommodation providers, the report said.

“Accurate data on tourism capacity in the Cook Islands is not currently available, particularly due to the recent growth in private holiday rentals.”

It acknowledged the government’s infrastructure investment, but said a lot more will need to be done.

“If tourist arrivals continued to grow at the rates recently seen without improvements to infrastructure and accommodation capacity, possible risks include increased costs to the tourism industry, decreased visitor satisfaction, and the dissatisfaction of local residents.”

The surge in tourism numbers is already concerning some locals, with an opposition MP, Selina Napa, calling for a cap on the number of visitors to the country.

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