Business on Rarotonga benefiting from the return of tourists
Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air
With the borders now open to Rarotonga, tourism businesses are starting to bounce back after being severely impacted by Covid-19, but so are non-tourism businesses.
The owner of The Fresh Fish Company, Timothy Vaikai, almost shut down the business during the pandemic, but it was the local market that kept them going.
“I must give credit and really thank the local people for really supporting us, the Mama down the road who will get two kilos from us, we deal with quarter of a tonne a week, but those two kilo orders and those small bits of fish people were ordering, that’s the only reason why we stayed afloat during Covid-19,” Timothy says.
Former Miss Cook Islands Reihana Koteka-Wiki is the owner of Liliko’i based in downtown Avarua. She had only just signed the lease to her new shop before borders closed again in August last year.
“I had to go back to the drawing board because a week after they’d shut the borders my sales had already dropped about 70% and it carried on like that for several weeks after,” says Reihana.
The store is up and running again and she’s helping other local small businesses by stocking their products.
“At the moment we’ve got Marama Moana which is a soy candle brand, it’s locally made and it’s actually a mum and her children, they make it all from home, they’re super popular.
“We’ve also got Kiona Jewellery, they’re handmade jewellery pieces that feature local keshi pearls and she does all the wiring herself,” Reihana added.
The buzz of the tattoo gun is humming again for artist Luther Berg, Owner of Next Tattoo Cook Islands. Luther went from almost no tattooing during the border closures, to now overflowing with bookings, especially from overseas customers.
“It was almost a day and night turnaround, I was expecting some sort of incremental climb back into a reasonably profitable normalcy, but that wasn’t the case, it was overnight,” says Luther.
Social media has played a huge part in the success of Next Tattoo Cook Islands, but largely for Luther’s quirky sense of humour.
“By adding humour into the business page it does sort of make it more shareable.” Luther says.
“On the downside I do find myself getting confronted by various visitors on the island and they’ll be like, hey you’re that guy. The one that does the stupid instagram stories!”
Luther is not the only business owner in his household, his partner Courtney Raita went from running Shookies, a business selling cookies, as a hobby, to full time as means of supporting them during the pandemic.
“When Covid hit, he [Luther] went from working everyday, to nothing at all, so he was our primary source of income at that point and when he stopped working I just picked up on Shookies and the only way we could really live off this is if I just upped the capacity,” says Courtney.
That was two years ago and now Shookies has taken off and is being stocked in cafes across Rarotonga and orders coming in weekly through the Shookies instagram business page.