Overall visitor arrivals to the Northern Mariana Islands were up 15 percent to 389,475 visitors in fiscal year 2012 ending September, compared to the previous fiscal year. The primary markets of Japan and Korea, as well as the secondary markets of China and Russia, all posted gains in fiscal year 2012 compared to 2011.
Several local and international factors played a role in the increase, according to Marianas Visitors Authority managing director Perry Tenorio.
“First, we had more flights from Korea, and China in [fiscal year] 2012 than in the previous fiscal year, giving travelers from these two key markets more access to the Northern Mariana Islands,” said Tenorio. “At the same time, greater demand helped keep those air seats filled and flights operating. This was due in part to more Chinese traveling abroad, as well as strategic promotions by the MVA and our travel partners in our primary and secondary markets, including a pre-summer blitz and the opening of our China promotional office this past summer.”
In the closing month of the fiscal year, September 2012 visitor arrivals to the Northern Mariana Islands soared 20 percent compared to September 2011. According to the MVA, arrivals to the islands of Saipan, Tinian, and Rota registered 30,472 visitors in September compared to 25,408 in September 2011.
Arrivals from Japan edged 1 percent higher for the fiscal year. In September, arrivals reached 12,244 visitors, 3 percent higher than September last year, as the Japan market continues to stabilize and re-establish its position as the Northern Marianas’ number one source market of incoming tourists. Delta Air Lines launched an additional four weekly flights from Narita on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday in July, continuing through Sept. 24.
Arrivals from Korea jumped 19 percent for the fiscal year. Arrivals from Korea in September posted an eighth consecutive month of double-digit increases, up 31 percent versus the previous year to 8,836 visitors. Asiana Airlines re-launched a second weekly service from Busan to Saipan on June 13, which had been suspended since June of last year due to lack of available aircraft. Looking ahead, the supply of air seats to the NMI out of the Korea market is projected to continue to increase in the final quarter of the year, with Asiana Airlines boosting its Busan-Saipan service from two to four flights a week beginning Nov. 20, and ensuring continued strong growth in Korean arrivals through the end of the year.
In fiscal year 2012, the Northern Marianas received 70 percent more visitors from China compared to the previous year due to the launch of new flights, including six weekly flights from Shanghai and Guangzhou. In September, arrivals from China jumped 46 percent to 6,586 visitors. Continuous significant growth in Chinese arrivals is projected through the end of the year, thanks to China’s National Day holidays in October, the launch of three weekly flights by China Eastern Airlines from Beijing beginning Friday, Nov. 16, and ongoing major media and travel agent promotions launched by the MVA’s new China office.
Meanwhile, although arrivals were down 8 percent from Russia to 199 in September, overall arrivals from this secondary market increased 10 percent in fiscal year 2012 compared to the previous year. Bi-weekly charter flights by AviaCharter DV commenced from Vladivostok in late October 2012 and are expected to drive significantly higher arrivals from Russia through March 2013.
“FY 2012 was a strong year of recovery, but much work remains to be done to restore a healthy tourism economy in the Northern Marianas,” said Tenorio. “Everyone has a role to play, and we encourage the government, our private sector partners, and individual members of the community to stay focused on the crucial importance of tourism to the economy of the NMI. A healthy tourism economy means increased government revenues and makes our islands a better place to live and do business.”
In fiscal year 2012, arrivals were lower from most other markets: Guam (down 5 percent to 14,784), the United States (down 6 percent to 8,381), Hong Kong (down 64 percent to 672), the Philippines (unchanged at 540), and Other Areas (down 34 percent to 2,966).
For the month of September, arrivals were higher from the United States (up 116 percent to 1,178) and Other Areas (up 14 percent to 187), lower from Guam (down 13 percent to 1,059) and Hong Kong (down 56 percent to 39), and unchanged from the Philippines (40 arrivals).
The September economic report by the Japanese Cabinet Office assessed that the recovery in Japan is stagnating “due to the deceleration of the world economy.” In September, the Japanese yen remained basically flat against the U.S. dollar to close at 80.87 yen. The Japan National Tourism Organization reported a preliminary total of 1,965,000 Japanese traveled overseas in August, the highest August total ever.
The Korean government plans to spend $305.6 billion in 2013, an increase of 5.3 percent compared to the previous year, with the aim of boosting Korea’s sagging economy while maintaining fiscal health. Korea’s consumer spending grew at a slower pace than the country’s economic growth for the past three years, adding to concerns that domestic demand in Korea may further cool. The won/dollar exchange rate declined 27.8 from previous month to finish at 1,105.6, due to the China-Japan territorial conflict and other reasons. According to the Korea Tourism Organization, the number of Korean outbound travelers in August was 1,334,651, an increase of 7 percent compared to the same month in 2011. (MVA)