The leading Travel Management Company of the Cook Islands

Turama: a leading light in sustainable tourism

Turama Pacific Travel Group managing director Robert Skews (center) at the opening of the local inbound tourism company’s new initiative in its water bottling station that will see more than 200,000 plastic bottles saved from ending up in the landfill.

Robert Skews is pictured here with (from left) Tonga Tourism CEO Sioni Moala-Mafi, Reef2Ridge coordinator Hayley Weeks who opened the new project, Tonga minister of tourism Akosita Lavulavu and Cook Islands Tourism CEO Halatoa Fua.  

Turama Pacific Travel Group have launched its new water bottling station at Turama House in Nikao this week which will see the inbound tourism company replace plastic water bottles with aluminum refillable bottles as part of the local company’s 30-year policy on environmental conservation and sustainable tourism.  

Turama Pacific Travel Group Managing Director Robert Skews proudly invites guests to look through the local company’s new water bottling station that was officially opened by Ridge2Reef coordinator Hayley Weeks. The Ridge2Reef project provided the seed funding for the worthwhile environmentally focused project.  

Turama Pacific Travel Group Managing Director Robert Skews shows guests including Tonga Minister for Tourism Akosita Lavulavu, Cook Islands Tourism CEO Halatoa Fua and Tourism Council chairman Ewan Smith through the company newly opened water bottling station in Nikao.  

Nathan Skews, the new Manager of the Turama Pacific Travel Group’s water bottling station with one of the new refillable aluminum bottles the tourism inbound company will be providing international guests and saving over 200,000 plastic bottles from ending in the landfill.  

Sieni Tiraa-Passfield and Metua Vaiimene from Cook Islands Tourism show their eco-warrior side with a refillable Turama Pacific water bottle.  

Over 200,000 plastic water bottles will be saved from ending up in Rarotonga’s already overfull landfill thanks to Turama Pacific Travel Group launching their own water bottling project in Nikao this week.

The water bottling station, which will see international visitors to Rarotonga receive a refillable aluminum water bottle in place of plastic water bottles, is the most recent environmental conservation initiative by the largest inbound tourism company founded 30-years ago with a focus on sustainable tourism.

The road away from plastic bottles has been a long one as Turama Pacific Managing Director Robert Skews told invited guests at this week’s launch of the company’s water bottling station.

“Today is the fruition of 5-years of planning and begging and after a lot of rejections, we got special help from Metua Vaiimene (Cook Islands Tourism) and Maria Tuoro from the Ridge2Reef programme and the project moved from a dream to a plan.”

“Our company has always been at the forefront of sustainable tourism but maybe not out front so much about what we do as some companies, but working away in the background.”

Skews explained that in 2014 they could see that there were waste issues with plastics and looked at aluminum water bottles and what could be done.

“We tried to get local companies interested in doing this and we would buy from them but after 12 months and no progress we knew that if we wanted this to happen we had to drive it,” says Skews.

By 2016 the company had samples and pricing from a number of suppliers and at the time realised they needed some seed funding to get this project off the ground.

“All we needed was a kick start and we could remove we believe between 200 and 250,000 plastic water bottles per year from the dump – based on average stays of 9.5 days and estimates that each person we serviced buying 3 bottles of water during their stay.”

Skews says they had almost given up on the project when in February 2018 Metua Vaiimene from Cook Islands Tourism had talks with the team at Ridge2Reef and were able to secure $34,000 towards the project which got underway.

“We have spent over $60,000 so far on the project to get it going and from here on – there are no more costs to anyone and we save all those plastic bottles going to the tip each year.”

Skews also took the opportunity to make a clear point to the gathered guests including Tourism Industry Council president Sue Vea, chairman Ewan Smith, Tourism CEO Halatoa Fua, Chamber of Commerce president Fletcher Melvin and secretary Lynne Samuel as well as Ridge2Reef coordinator Hayley Weeks – that while funds are available to government and non-government organisations there is little opportunity for the private sector to access funds for worthwhile projects.

“I do take my hat off, to companies like CITC (and many others), who I believe, have lead the way for some time, in reducing non compostable items coming into the country  - getting rid of plastics and polystyrene etc.”

Turama House in Nikao has had filtered and UV treated water available in the building and for staff to take home for over 16 years.

This same water will now go through the Ozone Treatment method (activated oxygen) – which kills 99.99% of bacteria and germs – a ‘double-wammy’ method as Skews describes it to provide the best drinkable water.

The Ozone treatment plant at Turama House will also be used to sanitise and clean bottles – as well as purify water.

The new water bottling station was officially opened by Ridge2Reef project coordinator Hayley Weeks who commented that the water bottling station initiative is exactly the kind of environmental conservation project they encourage and support.

Matariki Wilson, 11 February 2020