CNMI Visitors Authority prepares for tourism crisis


The annual pendulum swing of low demand tourism months is going to be especially challenging this year, according to the Marianas Visitors Authority.

During the so-called “shoulder” months of October to mid-December, MVA is expecting a double digit reduction in air seat capacity from the Northern Mariana Islands’ primary markets of Japan and Korea. Due to low outbound demand from Japan and Korea, airlines serving the NMI have announced they are reducing flights.

“October through December is normally the slowest season of the year for tourism, and major carriers to the NMI will be cutting flights due to low demand for outbound travel in general and for the CNMI,” said MVA managing director Perry Tenorio. “All other leisure beach destinations are seeing similar weak demand for this period, including Hawaii and Guam, with equivalent reductions in airlift.”

Beginning October, double daily Continental Airline charters from Narita which were launched to capitalize on the peak summer season will stop as scheduled. Also, Delta Airlines will cut its Nagoya-Saipan daily flights to only 10 total flights in October and November, resulting in an 82 percent loss of weekly air seats out of the Nagoya market to an average 228 seats. Asiana Airlines will reduce its four weekly Osaka-Saipan flights to only one, resulting in at 75 percent loss of weekly air seats to 250.

“The aircraft will generally be parked, as the suspension is just for the weakest demand days, with regular service using the aircraft the other days of the week,” said Tenorio. “The Northern Marianas must continue to maintain our marketing presence in Japan and Korea until the anticipated turnaround in mid-December with the peak yearend season.”

The Delta Nagoya-Saipan flight is slated to resume its normal schedule on Dec. 20. Although there will be no Osaka-Saipan flights by Asiana for the first half of December, the route is expected to rebound on Dec. 17 with a total of seven weekly flights-or 1750 weekly air seats-through March 1, 2010. Finally, from the start of 2010, Delta will also run four extra morning flights from Narita to Saipan to capitalize on strong winter demand, continuing the strong rebound in airlift anticipated for early 2010 following the weak fall season.

September 2009 will also be a challenging month for the Korea market, as Saipan loses half of both its four weekly morning flights from Seoul and its four nightly flights from Busan. However, airlift from Korea is anticipated to recover beginning Oct. 1, 2009, with morning flights from Seoul to Saipan by Asiana Airlines doubling to four times a week. This increase, scheduled to continue through March 1, 2010, will make an additional 354 seats available each week. Also, the Busan-Saipan night route will double to four times a week from Dec. 20, 2009, through February 2010. This increase will add 282 seats per week from Busan during the period. Nightly flights from Seoul will remain constant during the period.

“The shoulder months of this fall underscore the importance of having diverse markets for the NMI,” said Tenorio. “Our secondary markets of China and Russia continue to help the tourism industry keep its head above water, and we hope the U.S. Department of Homeland Security understands how vital the inclusion of these countries is in the Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Program that will be implemented under immigration federalization. They are helping keep the industry afloat.”

The federal government is scheduled to assumed control of immigration in the NMI in November 2009. The NMI is seeking to have continued access to visitors from the mainland China and Russia through the new Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Program. The new regulations for the program have yet to be released by the Department of Homeland Security. (MVA)