Skymark Airlines’ nonstop daily regular scheduled flights from Tokyo-Narita to Saipan will begin on Nov. 29.
“This is a significant step toward reinvigorating our partnership with Japan, particularly with regards to our visitor industry,” CNMI Gov. Ralph DLG. Torres said.
Torres and Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios joined officials from the Marianas Visitors Authority, Commonwealth Ports Authority, Rep. Joseph Lee Pan Guerrero, and tourism industry stakeholders in Tokyo earlier this week to announce Skymark’s service launch.
Torres led the CNMI delegation in a meeting with Japan Congressman Yasukazu Hamada at the Japan Diet Members Office Building. Hamada was instrumental in helping to establish the CNMI’s relationship with Skymark Airlines, a press release from the governor’s office said.
“It’s been sometime since our first meeting with Congressman Hamada and we are extremely grateful that through his support, we are now just days away from seeing the return of daily direct flights from Tokyo to Saipan,” Torres said.
Palacios is optimistic that the return of direct flights from Japan will spur additional economic activity in the CNMI.
“This is an important milestone in our history and in our efforts to attract Japanese investors and tourists back to the Marianas,” Palacios said. “Back in the day when there were direct flights from Japan, we saw many Japanese investments in our islands and Japan was at the top of our visitor arrivals.”
Hamada expressed his continued support and noted that he has already begun inviting Japanese investors to take advantage of the upcoming direct flights so that they can explore potential investments in the CNMI.
On Oct. 29, Torres and Palacios joined a travel industry reception hosted by MVA in honor of Skymark Airlines’ flight launch announcement.
In March this year, Skymark’ Boeing 737-800 landed at the Saipan international airport officially launching the Tokyo-based budget carrier’s charter service between Japan and Saipan.
CNMI officials join stakeholders in Tokyo during the announcement of Skymark's lNov. 29, 2019 launch on Saipan. Photo courtesy of the Office of CNMI governor.
In his remarks before a standing room packed with Japanese media and industry partners, Torres thanked Skymark Airlines President Masahiko Ichie and the Skymark team for their partnership. He also extended his appreciation to U.S. Department of Commerce Deputy Assistant Secretary for Travel and Tourism Phil Lovas for attending the event and speaking in support of the new flight service.
“Japanese investors and visitors helped build the Marianas tourism industry over 40 years ago. Today, Japanese tourism is our number one priority in the Marianas,” Torres said. “As a community, we are all very excited to have Skymark Airlines launch their direct flights on Nov. 29. Everyone is looking forward to Skymark’s service, and we cannot wait to fully welcome back our Japanese visitors to our beautiful islands.”
He added that he looks forward to working closely with Skymark for many years to come and reiterated the Administration’s commitment to prioritize Japan as the CNMI’s leading tourism market and to strengthen the historic ties between the Marianas and Japan.
Palacios, whose maternal grandfather is Japanese, offered the ceremonial Kanpai toast by emphasizing that Japan and the Marianas are connected by history and culture, and this new partnership with Skymark Airlines provides the opportunity to grow closer and stronger together.
“To everyone here on this beautiful night, from our Skymark partners to our Japanese tourism partners, and to our media partners, on behalf of the people of the Marianas, I offer a toast for friendship, for beautiful harmony, and for success because Skymark’s success is the Marianas’ success,” the lt. governor said.
Skymark, Japan’s third largest carrier and first low-cost carrier, is based at Haneda International Airport in Ota, Tokyo.
Last year, the CNMI government and Skymark signed a co-promotional agreement that preceded the opening of the direct flights service between Japan and Saipan.
The number of Japanese arrivals to the CNMI plunged wen Delta Airlines terminated its service to this destination.
Emerging from bankruptcy filed in 2015, Skymark operated domestically for a few years before resuming international service last year. As part of its growth strategy, Skymark has set a goal to fill the gaps in competition.