Niue is a Pacific Island paradise, one of the smallest countries on Earth and the largest raised coral atoll in the world.
With world class diving, fishing, walking, caving and whale interactions set in a relaxing tropical environment; Niue is a soft adventure and ecotourism paradise. It’s a place where it’s normal for complete strangers to wave at each other, all the time. It’s a place where nature hasn’t been broken, and things are the way “they used to be.”
Tourism operators in Niue may be able to access cheap loans to expand their accommodation facilities as the country’s push to grow the sector gathers momentum.
The island’s tourism coordinator Hayden Porter says there is also talk of a seasonal labor scheme to ease any potential worker shortage as more tourists arrive.
As he explains to Don Wiseman, a second flight from Auckland every fortnight during the high season coupled with more promotion of the island has clearly had an impact.
HAYDEN PORTER: By the end of this calendar year we’ll be sitting at around 34% growth in arrival numbers, but quite significantly the mix of those arrivals has increased further up to about 75% of visitor arrivals are now here to holiday. We go back about three years and only about 50% of arrivals were specifically here to holiday. So we’ve had big jumps and it’s been, I guess, a focused effort over the past three and a half years. Both the New Zealand and Niuean governments really had a big focus on driving tourism forward, and a few things were identified then that a) you need more accommodation, and b) you need more air capacity, making sure that demand would be there throughout those growth periods, as well, so making sure that we marketed Niue a little bit differently and got it out there to the consumer as a genuine option to holiday, when they might otherwise go to the more traditional places like the Cooks and Fiji and Samoa and so on.
DON WISEMAN: In terms of accommodation there, you perceive a need for more, and there is a plan to offer people reduced-cost loans to expand their accommodation.
HP: It’s always a real chicken-and-egg situation. When flights are essentially at capacity and accommodation is at capacity, you need one thing to move. And the first thing of those is accommodation, because without it you can put some extra people on flights. But if you’ve got nowhere for them to sleep it’s a big pointless. So we actually took that approach back in 2011, as well, and subsequently have seen quite a bit of growth. So at present the government is looking at encouraging operators to expand their businesses. So we’ve had a couple of expressions of interest over the past few years in terms of that – see who is interested in doing it and has the capacity to do it and land and bits and pieces, and then an assessment can be made from there on how much quality accommodation can be brought in in time for next year.
DW: As it stands at the moment, there’s this second flight that’s once every two weeks through the high season, but next year you, what, hope that it will be every week?
HP: It’s certainly the intention to get to that stage and that will come down to accommodation availability and timing of the flight from there. But, long-term, one would hope that would be even more frequent than that, but that’s still a few years away, just as accommodation capacity continues to grow in line with the airline capacity growth.
DW: What about staff, because, as we all know, there are very few people on the island. So you have more accommodation establishments. Where are the staff going to come from?
HP: It’s certainly a challenge, as it is in New Zealand, as well.
DW: Surely not as great. You can’t compare the two.
HP: You’d be surprised. But it is a challenge. We’ve been able to cope so far. There has been some talk of doing some seasonal work schemes or seasonal work visas and so on. So all of those things are just being assessed at the moment, really.