The coronavirus pandemic has caused a lot of people to do some interesting things – like pick up soap carving or becoming a political expert overnight.
But none has been as perplexing as the decisions entire countries have made out of fear of becoming on the wrong end of the World Health Organization’s parabola.
One small island risked everything to avoid COVID-19 reaching its borders – and now the economic cost may be too much to bear.
Is traveling too dangerous?
The downside to leaving the house or having any human interaction at all is that you may encounter some germs.
However, most of the time, the risk is well worth the experience – and many of us have come to accept this aspect of life and travel.
But media is a powerful tool and we have seen it used to both build and destroy.
Sadly, on the island of Rarotonga – the largest of the 15 Cook Islands in the South Pacific – the economy is crashing fast over a fear of the coronavirus.
Tourism fell off a cliff, along with its income
Like most of the world, the island of Rarotonga closed its borders in mid-March, subsequently cutting off two-thirds of the already nominal GDP for the nation according to Bloomberg Quint.
Pa Napa, manager of Kiikii Inn & Suites, was looking forward to another lucrative year for the fast-rising tourist destination.
The inn had been booked solid for the first three months of 2020 and tourists were looking forward to sipping cocktails garnished with mini umbrellas and basking on the shores of the gem-colored lagoon set against the deep green mountain peaks.
Now, Napa’s piece of paradise is vacant with nothing on the books to brighten his financial future.
Overnight, a booming industry had radio silence
As Bloomberg Quint reported:
“The coronavirus pandemic was spreading rapidly, and over the course of a weekend dozens of flights destined for Rarotonga would be canceled, cruise ships banned, and border restrictions imposed making entry practically impossible for everyone except residents of New Zealand, which has close links with the Cook Islands.”
How did the nation’s small government justify closures when they knew it would risk the livelihood of thousands?
Well, it was their belief that opening up the borders meant confronting an illness they were ill-equipped to handle.
“People not money,” stated Prime Minister Henry Puna – who was willing to sacrifice roughly $300 million from the tourism industry reported Bloomberg Quint.
“I thought the same thing as everybody else: What are we going to do?” said Napa, adding, “We were just gearing up for the busy season.”
Meanwhile, the nation has yet to record a single case of COVID-19, but still intends to keep the country closed through at least June.
This will cause a painful 60% plunge in the island’s gross domestic product, a loss many residents won’t be able to recover from.
“2020 will be a very difficult year for Cook Islands given a shutdown of global tourism due to Covid-19,” warns Kishti Sen, a South Pacific economics specialist.
Where will we go from here?
Even with borders beginning to accept tourists in various countries, people are still skeptical of airlines and destinations with large gatherings.
As Proud American Traveler previously reported, there are countries that have made it nearly impossible to enjoy a post-pandemic vacation.
Shutting down the beautiful Cook Islands for fear of getting sick has caused the destruction of many lives.
History will bear the burden of teaching some hard lessons for societies at large.