Ending visa-waiver program would be a disaster for NMI, says MVA chief

MARIANAS Visitors Authority Managing Director Chris Concepcion says visitor arrivals would plummet if the U.S. government ends the CNMI visa-waiver program for Chinese and Russian tourists.

Early this month, U.S. Customs and Border Protection field operations director Brian J. Humphrey said the new secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, John Kelly, would decide whether the program should continue.

Chris Concepcion

Right now, Concepcion said the parole-in-place program for China passport holders allows them visa-free entry to the CNMI which received over 200,000 visitors from China in the last fiscal year.

“If we lose the parole-in-place program those numbers would drop drastically to well below a quarter of that. That would mean fewer tourists in the CNMI spending money at shops, supermarkets, convenience stores, restaurants, hotels, guided tours, etc.,” he added.

Concepcion said it would also result in less tax money being collected by the government which would mean, he added, less revenue to spend on basic public services.

“In short, it would be a disaster,” he said.

MVA continues to strive toward “balancing” arrivals from the big three markets: Japan, Korea and China, Concepcion said.

However, Japan numbers are still insufficient to supplant arrivals from China, he added.

“It’s vital to note that Japan arrivals worldwide are shrinking, particularly to beach destinations in our region. So we are working extremely hard every day in Japan to revitalize our image, rebrand our destination, and we’re positive we’ll see some encouraging results soon,” he said.

Concepcion said it’s important that the government and the community support the tourism industry because it’s the CNMI’s only industry.

“Without tourists, we would have no economy to speak of. This position has been expressed to DHS officials as well,” he said.

Source: Marianas Variety :

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