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Talofa Cook Islands experts ... question about "Survivor" ?

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Talofa Cook Islands experts ... question about "Survivor" ?

Malo lava all

I'm a DE from the Samoa forums, and we've just heard in the last few weeks that the next season of "Survivor" is to be filmed in Samoa. I knew it was on the cards as I met the location scout back in December last year.

We've just heard in the last week or so that the production company, crew and cast will be taking over Aggie Grey's Lagoon Resort for the period 01 June to 31 September 2009. I understand that when Survivor was filmed in Aitutaki, there was a great deal of disruption to tourism, and was just wondering what comments / advice / suggestions you have that you might like to share with us? It would be good to hear your experiences. Not only for us destination experts, but there are also posters in our forum who will benefit (I am sure) from your input. Many have had their existing bookings disrupted already, and one poster is considering cancelling her wedding.

Many thanks for your input. I have searched through your forum but you guys have so many threads! The Cooks are much more frequently visited than Samoa - I guess that's why :o) It's been about 20 years since I was last in Rarotonga - I might have to come back sometime!!! lol

Look forward to hearing from you.

Fa soifua, manuia le aso!

Tina

You can find our forum here: tripadvisor.com/ShowForum-g294137-i5760-Samo…

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1. Re: Talofa Cook Islands experts ... question about "Survivor" ?

Kia Orana Tina,

I can only speak as a local who lives on Rarotonga mainly. Survivior Cook Islands was an amazing phenomenon to occur on Aitutaki. However, given that Rarotonga is the primary destination for visitors to the Cook Islands anyway, this bigger island where the majority of resorts are located didn't experience the same inconvenience that Samoa may experience. Aitutaki is still in relative infancy in respect of tourism - it doesnt attract the same volume of visitors as Rarotonga.

Granted there were large numbers of film crew and support personnel flown over to Aitutaki - this event more than anything disrupted travel plans of locals - but not the capacity on international aircraft!. At times there weren't sufficient numbers of seats available on our small interisland aircraft. Survivor also used its own aircraft to island hop its executives. Air Raro had to divert their usual flight path to avoid the restricted areas. But it was fun to have to go around the island to land - rather than the usual route over the motu/lagoon.

Locals were restricted from using portions of the lagoon to fish etc. but the film site is well south of favoured fishing grounds. The lagoon cruises couldnt transport visitors to their usual motu destinations/lagoon routes. But this didnt pose a huge problem considering there are numerous other motu to visit on a lagoon cruise. Local vessels/boats were chartered to transport crew and contestants etc - in addition to Survivor craft being imported. This has created more choice for lagoon cruises today.

Several Aitutaki accommodation properties were devoted entirely to the film crew, but this was arranged satisfactorily. I travelled to Aitutaki during filming and I had no problem securing the accommodation at the resort of my choice. Other forum membrs affected may relate a different story. There was already sufficient accommodation on the island for the volume of visitors who travel to Aitutaki in the winter season. Also several landowners had spare homes they rented to Survivor crew. There's a lot of land space under utilised where Survivor buildings were constructed - well away from the usual visitor land attractions.

I cant readily clarify how the scenario of transporting guests from Apia to the Aggies lagoon resort daily will work favourably for inconvenienced guests. Not a viable option in respect of space, security and the context of having a Survivor series in the mix with tourism there too. IMO it would have been better for the lagoon resort to deny bookings if there was any hint back in December that the series was likely to arrive in Samoa. Tourism gurus would surely predict the likely scenario that would occur from attracting a series in the first place - someone in authority had to agree to the RFP well ahead of pubic announcement.

If Survivor had been filmed on Rarotonga (highly improbable I realise), where the majority of weddings -visitor activities take place, this certainly would have caused major disruption alright. The locals themselves would never entertain this unlikely prospect. Fortunately the outer islands of Cook Islands have good capacity for a Survivor series - mainly the logistics of shipping gets in the way, but nothing we cant handle with a huge territory of ocean and numerous under-populated islands.

Aitutaki population - only some 2000, with locals leaving anycase for Raro and NZ/Oz- so the capability to handle Survivor didnt pose a problem. The locals were only too happy to be employed, and they developed skills in the process. Local food supply became tight at times - especially fresh fruit and veg, livestock and fish. Security and surveillance required strict protocols surrounding filming sites, around film crew, the contestants themselves, media releases, locals involved as employees, so yes daily lives/local families experienced disruption. But Aitutakians are used to this - the entire island became involved during WWII as an American base - many locals have grown up around this type of adventure/being sworn to secrecy/political manouvers. The sub-culture has long embraced showmanship/entertainment/politics, and enjoy a very laid-back lifestyle. Stress hasnt developed on this island yet!

If anything the show hasnt translated into additional visitor arrivals from the USA as Aitutaki exected it would. Still lots more people are aware the Cook Islands exists. Unfortunately with tough economic times, those who are considering a trip to the Sth Pacific may be holding off for a while longer.

Kia Manuia.

Frangipani

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2. Re: Talofa Cook Islands experts ... question about "Survivor" ?

Malo lava Frangipani

Thank so much for the in depth reply! It's great to hear that the Surivor situation created so much positivity for the island of Aitutaki. I too am sure there will be many positive aspects for Samoa, and for it's local people.

One other question though --- did it have much effect environmentally on the area??

I'm not sure exactly where in Samoa they will film; some think Savai'i, and some think maybe one of the small islands in between Savai'i and 'Upolu. I guess that information will come to light soon enough. I just hope they are respectful of the local people, and of the flora and fauna in whatever area they choose.

It's interesting that the series filmed in the Cook Islands didn't generate too much more international travel from the USA - I would have thought differently. But as you say, times are tough and maybe people are holding off. I can't say I blame them!

Thanks again - and I look forward to replies from anyone else who usually posts here. I'll also direct the other DE's for Samoa to this thread.

Fa'afetai tele lava

Tina

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3. Re: Talofa Cook Islands experts ... question about "Survivor" ?

Kia Orana Tinz,

Environment was my first thought - because I'd carried out much of my enviro research on Aitutaki, so ecological things were/are of significant concern. But several of us had raised awareness amongst locals regarding species/habitat/pollution/protection prior to the series. And our new environmental legislation had come into effect also which helped spread the right messages re environmental issues - and with risk management concepts.

The crews used their own building materials and machinery so everything they constructed, they removed and tidied up - you wouldn't even have known they had been after 3 months. I visited the site for the tribal councils in January 2009, and the ground has reverted to bush again - more's the pity - the site was a great local asset. Survivor used their own boats, and vehicles too - all shipped in, and all removed.

We have low species diversity in Cook Is. Very unfortunately there was mention of the endangered Coconut Crab on the show, one contestant harped on about eating this poor creature. We have visitors clammering to eat these special creatures, and willing to pay exorbitant prices. Aaarrgh! So some long term loss for short term gain issues have arisen. Thats the downside of global exposure via popular medium.

Environmentally also - certain areas of Samoa will need to be restricted/totally off-limits before, during,after filming. If you can find out asap where the filming areas are and where the show camps for ground crew/workers as well as the challenges sites and contestants zones you'll be able to impart this info to your forum. Dont be surprised if a wide area is placed under blanket cover to protect the show. Paparazzi are big business - especially in a recession.

Accomm - I recall further that some visitors to Aitutaki were annoyed when they tried to book accomm and couldn't. But that was resolved through our local knowledge/network - the couple ended up far happier right next door to their original preference! It will pay to get the networks/links established so that visitors to Samoa can identify alternative accommation & availability.

Kia Manuia

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4. Re: Talofa Cook Islands experts ... question about "Survivor" ?

I've heard rumors after Samoa, Survivor will be returning to the Cook Islands for their last edition of the series.

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5. Re: Talofa Cook Islands experts ... question about "Survivor" ?

Malo lava Frangipani

Like Tina I am a DE for the Samoa Forum. Thanks for your interesting insight to the Survivor series in Cook Islands and I too am concerned about the maintenance of the environment as well. We do not know yet where the series is being filmed as most parts of Samoa are fairly easy to 'survive' in with the exception of Apolima (which is even dangerous in attempting to get to it) or in the uninhabited hills of Savaii.

I have one other question though - how much warning were locals given that this was going to happen, ie. how much preparation time were people allowed to organise extra supplies etc. so they were not depleted. Unfortunately for all involved in Samoa Survivor (including the resort) this has been "sprung on them" at very short notice and has all been managed very underhandedly by other parties over whom no-one has control. It's just a question out of interest and trying to understand whether it is normal practice for Survivor to be scouting as Tina said in December and then by March the whole tourism industry is in chaos.

Your thoughts would be appreciated.

Manuia le aso

Fa soifua

Deb

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6. Re: Talofa Cook Islands experts ... question about "Survivor" ?

We were on Aitutaki when they were filming Survivor. We were told by the owners of our resort that "Survivor" had their own supplies shipped in so none of the stores were benefiting from them being there. At the time, a lot of visitors on this board had their accommodation cancelled, especially anyone staying at the Aitutaki Lagoon Resort. A lot of people thought they had "sold out" to Survivor. We tried to have lunch there one day and the restaurants were closed and the resort looked like a ghost town as all the crew were out on location.

The day we flew from Rarotonga to Aitutaki, our flight was considered full but when we boarded, it was half empty and full with cargo for Survivor. We had our carry on luggage weighed and we were told no one was allowed to go past a certain row of seats as they were carrying a lot of cargo. The whole back of the plane was empty.

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7. Re: Talofa Cook Islands experts ... question about "Survivor" ?

Kia Orana Deb,

The approach to host Survivor Cook Islands came about from a different angle - or perhaps in our case it was transparent because so many of the locals on Aitutaki were affected, i.e. they had to be consulted - being landowners.

We have a very proactive Tourism Council & staff working at the Tourism Authority. Especially on Aitutaki we have a tourism & community champion in one of the accommodators. He is a local who knows his island well, and his family have all long been involved in tourism. The nature of Aitutakian people in respect of politics, entertainment, hospitality, humour, environment and strong culture blended these influences beautifully towards extending an invitation to Survivor producers to consider Aitutaki. And it worked - so yes there was longer time to prepare, than the current Samoa situation appears to present. But there has probably been lots of behind the scenes discussion in your country - there may have been a major holdup until things were clarified/agreed upon.

OK certain sites around Aitutaki were off limit - but all the locals benefitted from having Survivor on Aitutaki. Yes lots of stuff was shipped/airlifted in - but lots of fresh supplies were sourced locally too - and what needs to be remembered is that all the locals are landowners! Besides our businesses involve several partnerships. Everyone is a part of our food-chain - especially on the smaller islands.

What would propbably assist you in Samoa is to identify the likely sites for filming the contestants, accommodating all the film & support crews, and challenges/tribal council etc then putting a big ring around all these areas as a no-go zone. There will be lots of executives/film crew, supporting crew who all need to be accommodated.

Finally,there is discussion about hosting a further Survivor series somewhere in the Cook Islands. The previous show worked well, so why spoil a good thing. And yes there were good lessons learned, & mistakes made. We're working on these aspects to strengthen our prospects for next time.

Manuia.

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8. Re: Talofa Cook Islands experts ... question about "Survivor" ?

Fa'afetai tele lava Frangipani ... this is all great information, and I'll be digesting it over the next few days.

I just wish I could get up to Samoa in the next month or so and get involved in the process somehow! Unfortunately for me however, I currently have a few situations here in NZ (both business and personal) that are very likely to keep me here for at least the next four months. How frustrating!

Please continue to post (or email) any suggestions, comments, experiences that you think we can benefit from. It's extremely interesting to hear how the filming of Survivor has affected the Cook Islands, and wonderful to hear that there have been many positive outcomes, including the possibility that they may come back to film another series.

Fa soifua

Tina

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9. Re: Talofa Cook Islands experts ... question about "Survivor" ?

I have been to both Palau and Aitutaki post Survivor, in fact some have asked if they are tracking my books. One thing I can tell you as an American, is that the potential tourism implications seem to be exagerated. Although 26 million people watch Survivor on television, they are a unique group. These folks are primarily armchair travelers, much more likely to consume beer and potato chips than airline trips and lodgings. The production company has a record of cleaning up after they leave and are to be commended for that, if not for the exagerated program they produce. On Palau they created their own bar, so I can't fault any company that adds a bar to an island location. You folks in Samoa enjoy the temporary work associated with the production, but don't look for any significant future tourism impact.

Papa Mike

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10. Re: Talofa Cook Islands experts ... question about "Survivor" ?

Fa'afetai tele lava Frangipani and PapaMike

As Tina has said I too would like to be there at the moment and help in any way possible. Although this obviously must have been on the drawing board for quite some time it has still come as a shock to most (even the staff at Aggies). The govt has had basic control. Any land that they will be using in Samoa will be cultural land so it is very difficult to envisage where that will be, it's something we will just have to wait for.

Thanks for the reassurances about their care for the environment, Savaii has already been damaged by the introduction of camouflage weeds by Americans in WWII and that damage is irreparable.

Any info you can provide would be greatly appreciated, particularly that which we can use for our extended families who are struggling at the moment because of the global crisis.

Thanks again

Manuia le aso

Deb