Tourists and media representatives from Beijing will touch down at the Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport early morning today aboard the maiden flight of China Eastern Airlines, which is expected to bring more air seats to the CNMI from the emerging China market.
Besides hundreds of mostly first-time visitors from the Chinese capital, the inaugural flight will also bring 21 media representatives who will take part in a familiarization tour of the islands, according to Marianas Visitors Authority managing director Perry Tenorio yesterday.
Century Tours, in cooperation with China Eastern, officially started today its series of charter flights using an A330 aircraft with a seating capacity of 295 passengers. Tenorio said MVA has set up a welcoming group from the tourism body led by marketing manager Bruce Bateman. Visitors will also be offered popular leis and mwars in addition to special dance performances.
Tenorio reiterated the importance of the new flights from the China market, which represents 14 percent of the Commonwealth's total tourist arrivals. With the additional air seats, he is convinced that this will further boost arrivals in the months ahead. The China market brings more than $150 million in total contributions to the CNMI economy.
The inaugural flight was scheduled for arrival 1:50am today. This is part of the three times weekly regular flights direct from Beijing.
In an earlier interview with Alex Stutely, vice president of Century Tours, he disclosed that as a result of these charter flights, the CNMI will be accommodating about 900 Chinese tourists each week.
Saipan Tribune learned that the thrice weekly Beijing-Saipan service will depart Beijing International Airport every Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday early in the morning and arrive on Saipan the next day: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. These charter flights are expected until next year and may be renewed after that.
For Stutely, opening the Beijing market is advantageous to the CNMI because the Chinese economy is still growing and visitors from that market have strong spending power.
This the first time that China Eastern will be operating charter flights at this volume.
At present, Sichuan Airlines is the only one providing regular charter service from China through its four-times-a-week schedule from Shanghai and twice weekly flight from Guangzhou. Century Tours also charters these flights.
This effort to open the Beijing market was led by Century Tours chief executive officer Willie Tan.
Century Tours is a subsidiary of Luen Thai Enterprises. It is a travel and tour service company headquartered in Shanghai and is authorized by the China National Tourism Administration and Marianas Visitors Authority to offer Saipan tourism services to Chinese tourists.