Months after granting the CNMI an Approved Destination Status, the Chinese government is promoting the Northern Marianas as a wedding and honeymoon destination, a development that the Marianas Visitors Authority considers a milestone in its Chinese tourist market.
Officials from the Shanghai Luwan District Tourism Management Bureau, together with representatives from a popular television show and travel agencies, visited the MVA office yesterday, seeking support for their project.
Some 260 people, including 40 couples, would travel to Saipan sometime in October this year to get married on the island, which they described as a fantasy tropical island away from highly urbanized Shanghai.
The group wedding of 18 couples will be featured in the popular television show Dating on Saturday, which claims to have some 120 million viewers in China.
Shanghai Tourism Promote chief Lu Hong and Organizing Committee of Rose Wedding Formalities director Frank Z. H. Cao said the popular annual “Rose Wedding” featured on Dating on Saturday would be shot on Saipan this year.
“Saipan is so different from Shanghai. Saipan is a tropical island,” Cao said. The show will be dubbed: “Rose Wedding: Love in the Ocean.”
“Saipan is a beautiful island, especially the ocean,” said the television show’s editor, Zhao Feirong.
Hong said that Saipan has become popular in Shanghai as an ideal destination for wedding and honeymooners, unlike in the past when the island was rarely known to its travelers.
MVA marketing manager Wayne Pangelinan assured the group of the agency’s support, while details of the project has yet to be finalized.
“This is quite a milestone for the China market,” Pangelinan said. “We’ll show extraordinary support.”
Century Travel and Tours executive Ronald Chan and other company representatives and Sam Lui, Asia-Pacific manager of the Shanghai Qiangsheng International Travel Service Co. Ltd., also joined the Chinese delegation in meeting with MVA representatives yesterday morning.
Economists have underscored the potential of the China market as a source of substantial income for the CNMI.
Hong Kong Shanghai Banking Corp.’s chief economist George Leung recently said that Chinese tourists’ spending in Hong Kong amounted to about HK$100 billion last year. Leung projected that the figure would reach nearly HK$130 billion by the end of the year, HK$150 billion in 2006, and about HK$170 billion in 2007.
For the past decade, he said the number of Chinese travelers have been increasing every year. The annual has leaped from less than 2 million in 1994 to about 23 million in 2004. In 2000, the total only registered at less than 6 million.
While Chinese arrivals into the CNMI have been increasing, the economist said their actual number only comprises about 6 percent of Saipan’s total arrivals in April 2005.
Leung said that Chinese tourists could be a good source of income for the Commonwealth and could easily push up total visitor arrivals by 500,000 every year.