COVID-19: Cook Islands travel bubble delights travel agents, resort managers

Move over Australia - there's a new bubble that's now the hottest ticket in town.

Demand for flights and accommodation in the Cook Islands skyrocketed overnight, providing hope for other island nations wanting in on the deal.

Priscilla Peni, who hails from Samoa, is one person who can't wait to get back to the Cooks.

"The things I miss about Rarotonga are the scooters and Muri Beach that I really, really like, and the party bus because they don't offer that in Samoa," she tells Newshub.

After getting her first COVID jab on Tuesday, she's ready to let her hair down and book a trip.

"I just wanna party, I just wanna go party, that's it!"

The new bubble is the best thing since the announcement of quarantine-free travel to Australia, and thousands want in on the slice of paradise.

"Overnight we saw a 4000 percent increase in searches for holiday packages on our website. We also saw a 6000 percent search increase for flights," Flight Centre's general manager of marketing Jodie Burnard tells Newshub.

Air New Zealand has also seen a huge demand for flights. Thousands of bookings have been made since Monday's announcement, with the majority due to take off around the July school holidays.

Phones at resorts in the Cook Islands have also been running red hot.

"We started getting some phone calls or just notifications that emails were coming through on my phone to the point where I actually had to switch my notifications off," Muri Beach Club general manager Liana Scott tells Newshub.

Muri Beach Club booked half of its 30 rooms overnight.

"Some of the ones that have a credit are bringing friends, so that's one of the trends we're seeing. The other trend is probably a longer stay than originally booked," she says.

And the advice is to get in quickly because tourism is expected to peak in July and August.

"There will be a certain time of the months over those periods that will be at full capacity, which is exciting for the Cook Islands," she says.

To take some of the pressure off, it's hoped the travel bubble will be extended to the rest of the Pacific.

Because after a trip to Rarotonga, Peni wants to go home to Samoa.

"Very important to see my family, to see my grandma who's there, who I haven't seen in over a year," she said.

But the Tourism Minister is letting on when future bubbles may open.

"Look, that's a conversation that the Cabinet will have to have," Stuart Nash said.

But Peni hopes there'll be less talk and more bubble.