Some Pacific tourist destinations set to relax restrictions


    It’s been more than two years since many Pacific countries closed their international borders as a result of the pandemic.

    But in that time, some nations have decided to relax restrictions to welcome tourists back and revive the economy.

    With sandy beaches and warm, sunny weather Cook Islands is a dream destination for many travellers.

    Now Aussies can be part of the dream with Cook Islands opening its borders to Australians from the middle of next month, and the rest of the world in May.

    A 10-day isolation stopover in New Zealand has also been ditched for international arrivals.

    “We are open now to visitors. So just from New Zealand at present. And we’re really excited to be opening up very, very, very, very soon to Australia … via New Zealand to start with,” said Liana Scott, manager of the four star Muri Beach Club Hotel in Rarotonga.

    “The forward bookings for most places are sitting around the 60 to 70 percent.”

    With the more transmissible Omicron subvariant BA.2 set to become the dominant strain in parts of Australia, there could be impacts.

    Scott says while cases of COVID-19 have been rising, the vaccination rate in Cook Islands is high and that should give most people some protection.

    Visitors need to show a negative rapid test when they arrive, but do not need to isolate, unless they show a positive result.

    Tourism experts have been looking closely at Fiji, which opened its doors to travellers in December last year.

    Since then, close to 70,000 tourists have visited the country, and numbers are strong for the upcoming high season.

    “Looking at our forward bookings for April, we think a minimum of 30,000 people are booked in,” said Tourism Fiji chief executive Brent Hill.

    To enter Fiji, tourists have to take a rapid test before they fly in and another one within two days of arrival and they still need to isolate for seven days in their hotel if they test positive.

    French Polynesia opened its borders to visitors from the United States from mid-2020, and former tourism advisor, Hironui Johnston, said their visitors still come from mainly Europe and the U.S.

    “We had 80,000, our goal was 90-95,000, so we were 10,000 short,” he said.

    Visitors from New Zealand will start arriving by May, once the country opens its international borders.

    New Zealand, he said, will be “a transit point for Australian visitors, they will reopen in May and Air Tahiti Nui is planning to have one flight per week in May and then slowly increase”.

    One country that has still closed its beaches to tourists, is Samoa, which shut its borders early in the pandemic.

    Frank Lu at Sheraton Samoa Aggie Grey’s hotel says they were only partially open since borders closed and have now completely closed because of a nationwide lockdown.

    The local tourism industry was hoping to open its doors to tourists by about mid-year, but that now looks uncertain.