In Pacific, news of COVID-19 vaccine trials has created high hopes but industry should learn from crisis

Published on : Thursday, November 26, 2020

In the Pacific, news of successful COVID-19 vaccine trials has actually created high hopes that the tourism industry hit tremendously will begin to re-open in the coming New Year 2021.

Even before the announcement of the vaccine, there was enthusiasm in the Cook Islands over a recent New Zealand government delegation to survey the borders of the country and discuss a potential travel bubble.

Fletcher Melvin, Cook Islands Private Sector Taskforce chairperson spoke for many.

At the same time, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, before Christmas, has totally diminished hopes of a trans-Tasman bubble due to various tolerances for community transmission in New Zealand and Australia.

Beyond the ongoing indecisiveness, though the possibility of a Cook Islands-New Zealand bubble brings to the forefront additional questions about the way Pacific tourism can and should be revitalized.

Our research examines these questions and provides insights into the way Pacific peoples are re-imagining the return of tourism in their lives.

For eight months, the global pandemic has efficiently shut down Pacific state borders to all foreign tourists. With huge loss in jobs and economies undermined, people in Fiji, Vanuatu, Samoa, Cook Islands and beyond have had to make adjustments.

Some of them have adapted to the dearth of income from tourism by drawing on their natural, cultural and spiritual resources. From this instance we can appreciate the strengths of Pacific cultures and the way they might adapt to the uncertainties that come up in the future, including those associated with climate change.

Those impacted by COVID now want more family time, planting food and fishing, sharing surplus harvests, taking part in cultural and religious obligations, relearning traditional skills and strengthening food systems.

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