The Cook Islands struggle to stay afloat without two-way bubble

Changes to rules could also impact visitors' insurance

The Cook Islands struggle to stay afloat without two-way bubble

Insurance News

By Alicja Grzadkowska

Travellers hoping to visit the Cook Islands in the near-term could be out of luck. New reports have highlighted concerns that the region may not be able to bring in many tourists, should a two-way travel bubble with New Zealand not be inflated soon.

Before the pandemic, the Cook Islands could host around 8,000 visitors at any one time, Flight Centre general manager product Victoria Courtney told Stuff. But, since a one-way travel bubble with New Zealand has been in place since the end of January, some worry that the Pacific island nation’s tourism sector won’t be able to hold out if a two-way, quarantine-free bubble is delayed much longer. After all, tourism contributed $1 million a day to the economy pre-pandemic and accounted for 65% of its total GDP.

Getting workers to stay has likewise been a challenge. “We have seen in the past how hard it is to get our people back once they have moved to New Zealand or Australia,” Cook Island Prime Minister Mark Brown wrote in a column for the Cook Island News. “We need workers here because they help support those of us who are too young or too old to work. Our working-age people produce the outputs that our economy needs. And we need our entrepreneurs here to reopen our tourism-related businesses and help with the country’s economic recovery.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern held a meeting with Brown on Friday, and said that the pair had not yet set a date for the two-way bubble, though the goal is to have it in place in May.

Ardern noted that the government has made an additional $20 million in support available for the region this financial year “to help sustain livelihoods and protect vulnerable people until borders reopen.”

On the travel insurance side, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) said that officials are planning for situations where changes to quarantine-free travel to and from the Cook Islands could be required to manage coronavirus-related risks, reported Stuff.

“In any quarantine-free travel arrangement, there is an expectation that travellers will be responsible to manage any COVID-19 related travel disruption and associated costs,” the spokesperson explained. “It is always recommended to take out travel insurance when booking flights. Travellers should also check the fine print or confirm with insurers what is being covered under their policy.”

Nonetheless, no matter which policy they pick, Kiwis will not be covered if border closures leave them stranded. However, “Once the government declares Cook Islands as a safe travel destination, Flight Centre’s insurance provider CoverMore plans to provide cover if you or a close contact contract COVID and it interrupts your travel plans,” Courtney said.

Insurance policyholders will also be covered in other situations, including if the person they plan to stay with has to quarantine, if their accommodation needs to close for a deep clean, or if they’re an essential worker and have to return to work following an outbreak.

“What no insurance provider will cover is a government-enforced lockdown,” Courtney reiterated.

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