Updated: Jul 15
By Pacific Island Times News Staff
Saipan – In anticipation of United Airlines' resumption of its direct flight service between Tokyo and Saipan on Sept. 1, the Northern Mariana Islands' visitor industry is cramming to tackle strategies to reboot the Japanese market.
Japan was one of the CNMI's main source markets before it went dormant at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Japanese government opened the border on June 10, setting a 20,000 daily quota for incoming travelers.
Japan is among the countries that implemented the strictest pandemic border measures. But it has been under pressure to reopen after being walled up for two years.
Viola Alepuyo, chair of the Marianas Visitors Authority's board of directors, said Japan’s current entry quota poses a challenge for the Japanese market. "However, there is an expectation that the Japanese government will increase this number," she said.
The CNMI is vying with other destinations, including Guam, for the Japanese market share.
"We are grateful for the support and we are optimistic about the relaunch and gradual rebuilding of the Japan market under the Tourism Resumption Investment Plan," Alepuyo said.
Last week, MVA and United held a series of meetings with key travel partners in Japan to draw up new plans to hook the Japanese tourists to come to the CNMI.
Tadashi Shimura, president of Japan Association of Travel Agents,
welcomed the incentives offered by the CNMI to Japanese travelers including free PCR tests before embarkation back to Japan.
Other incentives were also unveiled at the July 8 Marianas Seminar & Webinar in Tokyo.
“Our sales meetings last week were extremely positive,. There is a lot of support from our travel partners, who agree that now is the right time to begin opening Japan,"” Alepuyo said.
"Although we cannot meet with everyone in person, as we normally do, JATA agreed that the Marianas Seminar & Webinar held last Friday would be a very good way to release information to travel agents about the Saipan-Narita direct flights." she added.
The MVA provided JATA with an update on hotel room availability and recent renovations of hotel properties in the CNMI. JATA inquired about interisland travel for those travelers interested in venturing beyond Saipan, should the duration of their visit allow.
The MVA also shared about the recently completed Pacific Mini Games and the facilities that have been newly renovated, creating more opportunities for sports tourism, including training camps.
Masahiko Inada, director of JATA's Outbound Travel Promotion Division, expressed hope that Japan’s move to ease restrictions will stir more interest in travel to the CNMI.
United will fly three weekly flights departing Tokyo-Narita International Airport at 9:25 p.m. on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays and arriving in Saipan one day later at 2 a.m. Flights from Saipan will depart on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 7 a.m. and arrive in Narita at 9:35 a.m.