This week I’m in the Cook Islands, arguably one of the most beautiful places in the South Pacific. 15 islands make up the Cook Islands, but the two most visited are Rarotonga and Aitutaki. They complement each other well as they are very different. Rarotonga is mountainous with impressive peaks, lush with vegetation, whilst Aitutaki is a low-lying coral atoll with one of the most picturesque lagoons in the Pacific.
We are here starting a cruise survey, which will run for the next five months, in both Rarotonga and Aitutaki. Not all cruise ships stop at both destinations, some just go to Rarotonga, but it will be interesting to see what the different findings are between the two destinations.
One of the challenges cruise destinations face is distinguishing themselves from other destinations where cruise ships also stop at. If visitors remember a specific destination, they are more likely to talk about it with their friends and relatives when they get home, and more likely to come back to visit as a (potentially) more lucrative land-based overnight tourist.
We have recently completed a similar survey in Vanuatu, interviewing in the capital Port Vila, and a small island called Mystery Island, which is little more than a very picturesque sand bank right in the south of the group of islands that make up Vanua
The findings from the survey showed that whilst visitors spent a lot less on Mystery Island (which wasn’t a surprise as there is less to spend your money on there), their levels of satisfaction were much higher than in Port Vila. It is clear that Mystery Island provides a much better advert for Vanuatu than the bustling Port Vila, where the scramble to make money from cruise visitors is highly evident.
This raises an interesting discussion, for which I don’t at present have the answer. Might it be better to develop cruisedestinations that provide entertainment and a relaxing atmosphere for visitors at the expense of trying to make as much money as possible, thereby leaving them with the greatest desire to return as a much more lucrative overnight visitor?
Cruising in the South Pacific, in particular on cruise ships from Australia, has grown rapidly over the last few years. It could be the ideal catalyst for growing the overnight tourism sector as well. But destinations that leave the best lasting impression on cruise visitors will surely benefit the most.