The Cook Islands are a self-governing island nation in the South Pacific Ocean that has a free association with New Zealand. It consists of 15 islands with a total land area of 240 square kilometers (93 sq mi). The Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the Cook Islands encompasses 1,960,027 square kilometers (756,771 square miles) of water.
New Zealand is in charge of the Cook Islands' defense and foreign affairs, although it does it in collaboration with the Cook Islands. In recent years, the Cook Islands have pursued a more autonomous foreign policy. Cook Islanders are New Zealand citizens, but they also hold the status of Cook Islands nationals, which other New Zealand citizens do not enjoy. Since 1980, the Cook Islands has been an active member of the Pacific Community.
The largest population centers of the Cook Islands are on the island of Rarotonga (13,007 in 2016), which also has an international airport. The total population was 17,459 according to the 2016 census. There is also a significant Cook Islander community in New Zealand: according to the 2018 New Zealand census, 80,532 persons identified as Cook Islanders or of Cook Islands heritage.
Tourism is the country's principal sector and the largest component of the economy, with over 168,000 tourists visiting the islands in 2018, ahead of offshore banking, pearls, and marine and fruit exports.