The Cook Islands Tourism Corporation says more research is needed to establish if its marketing of the country is encouraging sexual harassment of workers.
Most workers interviewed for the 2014 Auckland University of Technology study said they had been sexually harassed by customers and titillating marketing was seen as one of the causes.
The corporation’s chief executive Halatoa Fua said the study showed the importance of the message it had been putting out.
“We market the Cook Islands for what it is,” he said.
“The brand that we have ‘Love a Little Paradise’ is based on the Cook Islands’ cultural values.”
“We also incorporate environment as well as the vibrant Cook Islands culture.”
“The interpretation that could be that the messaging has some sort of effect on the sexual harassment … we will need more research to substantiate that,” Mr Fua said.
However Mr Fua acknowledged there is an issue with sexual harassment “especially in the hospitality industry.”
He said the agency was doing a stocktake of policies in place to deal with it.
The study by AUT researcher, Lisa Sadaraka, was conducted in 2014 and based on interviews with 32 people across the industry.
It revealed workers were leaving the industry because of sexual harassment.
Mr Fua said many factors were influencing workers leaving from depopulation to competing industries and sectors, salary levels as well as job satisfaction.
“It’s a good discussion and we did welcome Lisa’s study.
“We do think there’s an issue here that we need to address and we have to look at the wider policies and practices that are currently in place in the private sector and also how we can facilitate that from a government perspective.”