The Cook Islands’ tourism industry, already crippled by the Covid pandemic, was again battered by a huge storm this week, Prime Minister Mark Brown has said.
The industry was still recovering after borders were forced to close for more than two years.
He expected record numbers of tourists this month due to New Zealand school holidays.
The storm, which caused flooding and landslides across New Zealand earlier in the week, created swells of up to 4.5 meters on the south coast of Rarotonga, where most of the resorts were located .
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The Rarotongan Beach Resort & Lagoonarium, located in Arorangi, was among the hotels damaged by the waves and wind.
Kiwi guests said their beachfront villas were flooded, with one saying the ranch slider and glass from her bedroom ended up on her 17-year-old son’s bed.
Rarotongan owner Tata Crocombe told the Cook Islands News that a quarter of the resort’s rooms are now unusable.
“Hopefully we’ve seen the worst, but obviously we’ll be watching,” Crocombe said.
“We have about 50 contractors on site right now to clear the debris and start the process of reopening all rooms again.”
Crocombe said rooms should be ready for occupancy again in two weeks.
He said the terrace at the front of the restaurant had been removed because it was a hazard, but the kids’ club, water parks, restaurant, gym and bar were all open.
The resort’s main pool, which was emptied on Friday (New Zealand time), was back in action.
Crocombe said the resort has found alternative accommodation for all guests who need to be relocated.
“These [damages] look terrible when you see them, but it won’t take long.
Brown said authorities were still trying to assess the extent of the damage caused by the waves that hit the southern coasts of Rarotonga and the Pa Enua (outer islands) over the past two days.
Resorts, homes and businesses on Rarotonga’s south coast suffered significant damage, he said.
“I feel for our visitor industry, which is just beginning to recover after more than two years of lost revenue and opportunity, caused by the Covid pandemic and the border closures it has caused,” Brown said.
“But we have faced these challenges before and we will bounce back again.”
Brown said the government was ready to help people, just as it did after floods a few years ago hit homes in Avatiu and Arorangi.
At that time, the government helped people whose homes were damaged by the floods and set up an emergency support fund to prepare for future events, he said.
“We are ready to help households that have been damaged. The first thing to do is to assess the damage and how much will be needed.