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United reopens Narita-Saipan route

CNMI ramping up sales pitch to recover Japanese market

CNMI Governor Ralph Deleon Guerrero Torres, eighth right in the second row, heads a delegation from The Marianas in welcoming representatives of the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, the Japan Association of Travel Agents, and consumer and travel trade media outlets to a reception on Aug. 31, 2022, in Tokyo, marking the launch of direct flights between Narita and Saipan on Sept. 1, 2022, by United Airlines. Photo courtesy of MVA

By Pacific Island Times News Staff

Saipan – United Airlines and the Marianas Visitors Bureau held a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the departure gate Tokyo-Narita International Airport to mark the resumption of the direct flights between Narita and Saipan.

The inaugural flight took off at 9:25 p.m. on Sept. 1 after a two-year suspension of service due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Narita-Saipan route reopening is touted to boost the Marianas Visitors Bureau's renewed marketing campaign after years of a slump in the Japanese market.

“We have been waiting a long time to welcome back our friends from Japan on direct flights to the Marianas,” Viola Alepuyo, chair of the MVA board, said at a reception ceremony held Aug. 31 at ANA Intercontinental Hotel Tokyo.

As direct flights with Japan have been infrequent for most of the last four years, the MVA said it is working on rebuilding public awareness of the Northern Marianas as a tourist destination, especially among the young travellers.

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“Our Marianas starlit nights and blue skies during the day, clear ocean, friendly people, and relaxing way of life – passengers on tonight’s flight will soon experience all of that for themselves,” MVA Managing Director Priscilla M. Iakopo said.

“In the meantime, the MVA is ramping up ongoing promotions with a series of new partnerships and product offerings to entice Japanese visitors," she added.

United Airlines 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.

The airline is eligible for financial incentives for the flights under MVA's Travel Investment Resumption Plan, which will continue for an initial six months with an option to renew for an additional six months as the MVA and tourism partners work to stabilize the Japanese market.

The MVA’s new "Marianacation" promotion in Japan launched earlier this year has been expanded to further promote the destination’s natural beauty with an Air-Sea-Land package, offering free skydiving, SCUBAdiving, or golf for anyone booking a flight from Japan to Saipan. In addition, travel agents will receive a 10,000 yen incentive for all bookings.

“The cleanliness and beauty of the Marianas are superior to many competing destinations, and that’s what we’re leveraging with the Air-Sea-Land promotion,” said TRIP Chairman Ivan Quichocho.

“Our golf courses, scuba diving, and floral and fauna on Saipan, Tinian and Rota are incredible, and we are inviting visitors to experience all this with a number of travel trade promotions and coops," he added.


Expedia began an online campaign promoting the Northern Marianas on Sept. 1.

Maho Ueda, business development manager of Expedia Northeast Asia, said the MVA's attractive promotional package is expected to generate a buzz among potential visitors.

A recent survey of Expedia users indicates that tourists are more interested in destinations that offer pristine nature where they can also experience the local culture of the destitation.

Expedia has also pledged to share platform data with the MVA for strategic planning by the tourism office.

The online tourism promotion company Newt, which is operated by Tasi Tours on Saipan, has also signed on with other major travel agencies to promote the Northern Marianas. Business Development Leader Azusa Sugoh said the company will feature and market the CNMI on its online app.

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