CNMI economy takes another blow; HK Express suspends flights to Saipan

February 6, 2020

 

Saipan-- The CNM economy takes another hit after  Hong Kong Express Airlines announced yesterday that is suspending flights from Hong Kong to the Marianas due to the novel coronavirus outbreak currently happening not only in the Asia Pacific region but around the world.

 

The suspension of Hong Kong Express flights also follows the presidential proclamation executed last week by President Donald Trump suspending entry of immigrants and non-immigrants to the United States and its territories immigrants who pose a risk of transmitting coronavirus.

 

HK Express Airlines used to fly over a hundred passengers to Saipan four times a week and losing this route translate to economic loss for the CNMI.

 

CNMI Gov. Ralph DLG Torres speaking at the Saipan Chamber of Commerce last Wednesday, projects a loss of $40 million by the end of the fiscal year from the decrease of Chinese tourists in the CNMI. “Our economy is taking a major hit but it is not just us. Almost every economy in the Asia Pacific Region is negatively affected by the loss of Chinese tourism,” he said.

 

“Early projections show that we are set to lose at least $40 million in revenue and as a government… I understand that there have been discussions around the community about us returning to austerity. I can tell you right now that all options are on the table,” he added

 

With the cancellation of four airlines such as China Eastern Airlines, Sichuan Airlines ad Beijing Capital Airlines last week and now HK Express Airlines, Saipan is expected to lose over 70,000 Chinese tourists for the rest of the  fiscal year.

 

“The cancellation by HK Express will add more loss to the CNMI economy…instead of a projected loss of $40 million, The CNMI government will have to adjust its projected loss by an additional $4 to $7 million,” Torres said.

 

“We are reinforcing our cost-containment measures. We are looking at our current tax structure to seek ways in which we can generate revenue to keep essential public services going. I know that it has been very challenging last two years on all of us with the CW issues and Yutu and bow with the unforeseen outbreak and its impact on global economy, we know that it is not going to get better,” he added

 

 

Early this year and before the coronavirus outbreak, the Marianas Visitors Authority projected visitor arrivals at 549,956. According to MVA marketing manager  Thomas Kim, their numbers have drastically changed since late January.

 

“ With the outbreak and suspension of China flights to the CNMI, we are now looking at 503,304 visitor arrivals if the suspension lasts two months, 456,410 visitor arrivals if the suspension lasts six months and 433,043 visitor arrivals if the suspension reach eight months,” he said.

 

“Compared to Hawaii’s 65,000 and Guam’ 11,000, Saipan gets the most number of Chinese tourists every year at 165,000… we have seen 6,218 cancellations out of 7,147 advanced bookings and we expect this to go down even further.” He said.

 

Despite the growing economic problems that his government is facing, Torres remains focused on the health and safety of the people of the Marianas. “Our  public health and the safety and security of the people  will take precedence over anything else… we are cognizant that we need to continue our work on surveillance and screening,” he said.

 

“We will continue to protect our borders , while also mobilizing our local resources for our Commonwealth Health Corporation medical team to quarantine individuals suspected of having the coronavirus,” he added.

 

The suspension of Hong Kong Express flights also follows the presidential proclamation executed last week by President Donald Trump suspending entry of immigrants and non-immigrants to the United States and its territories immigrants who pose a risk of transmitting coronavirus.

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