Saipan – The Northern Mariana Islands has formally established a travel bubble with South Korea, officially rebooting its tourism that has been on pause for more than a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The agreement, signed in Seoul today, takes effect July 1, according to the Marianas Visitors Bureau.
CNMI Gov. Ralph DLG Torres and South Korea's Vice Minister Seong-Kyu Hwang of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport signed the agreement that facilitates the safe resumption of air travel between the two destinations.
This CNMI becomes the first place in the world to establish a travel agreement with South Korea.
The travel bubble applies to nationals, foreign national families of nationals, permanent residents, and families of permanent residents.
Those who wish to travel between the two countries under the travel bubble agreement are required to complete vaccination against Covid-19 at least 14 days ahead of departure with vaccines approved and provided by their respective governments such as Pfizer, Moderna, Janssen and AstraZeneca.
Health officials said people are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their second dose in a two-dose series or two weeks after a single-dose vaccine.
The agreement was signed in Seoul, where Torres is leading the CNMI delegation negotiating with the South Korean government and business leaders to reestablish tourism to the Western Pacific beach resort destination.
“Because of the CNMI’s level 1 designation by the CDC, the high number of vaccinated community members, and it being lauded as one of the safest places during this worldwide pandemic, the Korean government chose the CNMI as the first destination to enter into a Travel Bubble Arrangement,” said Viola Alepuyo, chairwoman of the MVA board.
The travel pact is the biggest step forward in rebooting the CNMI tourism industry, Alepuyo said.
"This travel bubble is the bridge we need for Korean travelers choosing our destination as tourism resumes worldwide," Alepuyo said.
She expressed confidence that the safety measures established by the travel bubble agreement– essentially full vaccination – is the safest choice to keep our island community safe.”
Approved travelers must have remained in their country of embarkation for at least 14 days prior to departure. Travelers under the travel bubble must travel on direct nonstop flights between of Korea and the CNMI operated by either country’s national carriers.
The agreement is for group tours between Seoul Incheon International Airport and Saipan International Airport. Other entry or exit points including Rota and Tinian may be added by mutual consent.
Travelers must also undertake a RT-PCR COVID-19 test within three days before departure, and obtain a certificate of having tested negative for Covid-19 from the accredited laboratories by the health authorities of each country.
For the return journey, both Korean and the CNMI governments shall provide convenience for travelers to be tested for Covid-19 three days
before their departure.
Upon arrival at each destination, travelers will be subject to an on-arrival RT-PCR Covid-19 test. They will be exempt from quarantine and allowed to travel as long as they test negative on their on-arrival test. However, travelers may be placed on a controlled itinerary as required by the health measures of both destinations.