MVA chief lauds tourism stakeholders; September arrivals up 18%

MARIANAS Visitors Authority Managing Director Chris Concepcion attributed the increase in the CNMI’s gross domestic product to the steady rise in tourist arrivals after years of decline.

The improving arrival numbers, he added, are “due to the work of everyone in the CNMI — the private sector, [the Hotel Association of Northern Mariana Islands], MVA and its members, all the airlines that serve the CNMI, and the entire community in general.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, the islands’ GDP in 2016 amounted to $1.242 billion or a 28.6 percent increase compared to the figure in 2015.

Concepcion said the tourism industry accounted for $895 million of the total GDP.

“That equates to roughly 72 percent of the entire economy. That’s huge. I think the major contributing factor is the rise in tourist arrivals the past year along with the significant increase in revenue derived from gaming taxes and construction spending.”

He added, “We do realize that because tourism is the main industry here, naturally it will always account for the largest share of the GDP. This goes to show that tourism really is everyone’s business and it takes a community effort to sustain this momentum.”

However, he said, “surprisingly, despite all these great things happening in the economy, there is still a lot of negativity in some circles which I believe is mostly due to misinformation or just plain pessimism. We are a great commonwealth. Let’s act like it and move forward with a positive attitude. It’s highly important for consumer confidence, for investor confidence, and for our overall tourist experience when they visit our islands.”

September arrivals

In a statement, MVA said visitor arrivals to the CNMI increased 18 percent in Sept. 2017 compared to Sept. 2016, marking 653,150 total arrivals for fiscal year 2017, or a 30 percent increase in arrivals over the prior fiscal year.

“This is the fourth highest fiscal year arrivals in Marianas history, the record being 726,690 in fiscal year 1997,” MVA said.

Arrivals to Saipan, Tinian and Rota registered 50,848 visitors in Sept. 2017 compared to 43,264 visitors received in Sept. 2016, it added.

“Early this year the Marianas was recognized by the United Nations World Travel Organization as the 3rd fastest growing tourist destination in the world, and favorable international growth and our collective efforts in government, the private sector, and the community have reaped astounding growth for the fiscal year, overall,” Concepcion said in a statement.   “We are grateful to all our partners for believing that, ‘Tourism is Everybody’s Business,’ and we are grateful for the support of the administration. However, with the recent passing of P.L. 20-17 which took away nearly a million dollars in MVA funding for the mayors of Rota, Tinian and Saipan, MVA will be forced to curtail or eliminate some community events and cut some marketing programs planned for our source markets.”


MVA said arrivals from South Korea increased 30 percent in Sept. to 25,691 visitors. South Korea was also the top-performing market for the year, marking 66 percent growth to comprise over half of all visitors, MVA said.

“One national flag carrier and 4 low-cost carriers — Asiana Airlines, Jeju Air, Jin Air, T’way and Eastar Jet — provide Incheon-Saipan flight services, while Asiana Airlines and Jeju Air also offer flights between Busan and Saipan.”


MVA said arrivals from China grew 15 percent compared to Sept. 2016 to 18,073 visitors. Visitor arrivals from China increased 11 percent in the fiscal year and accounted for 35 percent of total visitor arrivals.

In September, MVA attended the 2017 ADEX Beijing Ocean Week and the 2017 PATA Travel Mart in Macau, the 2017 China International Tourism Industry Expo in Guangzhou and the 2017 International Islands Tourism Conference and the International Islands Tourism Expo in Zhoushan, “targeting more specific vertical audience in specific regional markets.”

In addition, in supporting inaugural flights from Nanjing to Saipan, MVA said it is targeting further the market potential in East China.


MVA said arrivals from Japan were at 4,835 visitors in Sept. 12 percent lower compared to Sept. 2016.

Japan used to be the CNMI’s top market.

“Arrivals from Japan decreased 16 percent on the year, comprising 8 percent of total visitor arrivals,” MVA said.

“Delta Air Lines has announced plans to use larger aircraft on its daily flight from Tokyo-Narita beginning mid-Nov. 2017 through March 2018, adding 24 additional daily seats, which should increase overall arrivals from Japan. While Delta Air Lines and United Airlines are reviewing their Japan-Guam service, Delta is upgrading their service to Saipan. MVA believes ongoing decline for Japan market is a perceived value issue for travelling to the Marianas; Japanese satisfaction to the Marianas is only around 30 percent, Hawaii it is almost 80 percent and Guam is almost 70 percent, indicating room for product/service improvements to satisfy Japanese tourists. Until the end of September, Delta flight rate was in the range of $500-$600 but was suddenly lowered to $250 in October. However, travel agency packages are sold based on printed material and cannot be reduced quickly. MVA hopes to attract more FIT/repeat customers who make their own travel arrangement who take advantage of the lowered flight cost.”

Source: Marianas Variety :

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