Koreans have the travel itch and they mark the CNMI as their destination

Passengers from Korea are greeted at Saipan International Airport in The Marianas with indigenous Chamorro and Carolinian dancers on July 24, 2021. Photo courtesy of MVA

By Bea Cabrera

Saipan— The Northern Mariana Islands is seeing an uptick in flight and hotel bookings and the numbers are more than what the industry stakeholder previously anticipated.

While the rest of the world continues to fight the spread of Covid-19, the CNMI boasts of its safe destination badge serving as its default marketing campaign.

Located 135 miles from Guam, which is a red zone, the CNMI has managed to keep the spread of Covid-19 under control. Its travel advisory is under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s level 1 category.

The Tourism Investment Program (TRIP) for South Korea is the CNMI’s first travel bubble agreement with a foreign country.

Launched in July, the program’s goal is to jumpstart the CNMI economy, which is sinking in the mire due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic came while the commonwealth was still recovering from the destructive super typhoons Mangkhut and Yutu that shattered its islands in 2018.

TRIP consists of procedures developed by government and business leaders that guide the CNMI’s travel and quarantine protocols as well as incentive programs for tourists, airlines, hotels and tour operators.

Two months after TRIP started, the delta and alpha variants emerged, but these threats did not deter the influx of tourists from South Korea.

“CNMI is the only travel destination that the government of South Korea has a travel bubble agreement with,” said Ivan Quichocho, a member of the Marianas Visitor Authority board. “For the most part, a huge reason we are seeing an uptick in bookings is the solid foundation that the CNMI administration, Covid-19 Task Force and Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. have established in terms of our health and safety protocols for arriving passengers.”