December 2013 visitor arrivals to the Northern Mariana Islands were essentially flat year-on-year, decreasing just 3 percent compared to December 2012. According to the Marianas Visitors Authority, arrivals to the islands of Saipan, Tinian and Rota registered 38,152 visitors in December 2013 compared to 39,272 in December 2012.
Arrivals from Japan dropped 23 percent in December to 11,241 visitors. Delta Air Lines reduced their night flight DL288 from daily service to five times a week effective Oct. 1 through Dec. 23. The 15-percent decline in air seat supply from Narita impacted the Japanese market heavily. In addition, the depreciation of the Japanese yen continued in December, dropping to the lowest level seen in five years, and making travel by Japanese to the NMI in December effectively 18 percent more expensive than in December 2012.
Arrivals from Korea rose 5 percent in December to 13,566 visitors, generating more visitors than any other source market. With the launch of Dynamic Airways’ new direct service from Incheon to Saipan in October as the first low-cost carrier linking the Korea market with the CNMI, and Asiana Airlines’ additional charter flights two times a week from Oct. 30 to Mar. 29, the Korea market is seeing the introduction of a wide range of new travel products to the NMI with competitive prices. Dynamic Airways has doubled the number of flights from Seoul to the NMI from two a week to four a week during the high season from Jan. 5 to Feb. 28, 2014, which will ensure continued strong growth in arrivals out of the Korea market for the period.
Meanwhile, arrivals from China jumped 10 percent in December to 9,579 visitors and third-ranked source country for the NMI. With the forthcoming Chinese New Year holiday from Jan. 30 to Feb. 7, all charter flights from China to the NMI are fully booked from Shanghai, Beijing, and Guangzhou. Saipan, Tinian and Rota are rapidly becoming one of most popular island destinations for Chinese visitors during the peak holiday season. Meanwhile, Dynamic Airways has announced it will launch charter flights from Tianjin, Wuhan, and Hangzhou later this month.
Arrivals from Russia jumped 59 percent to 1,432 visitors in December, making Russia once again the CNMI’s fastest-growing source market. Arrivals to the NMI continue to soar as a result of strong airlift from East Russia via AVIACHARTERS and Asiana Airlines.
For the fourth consecutive month, the Japanese Cabinet’s December report assessed “the economy is on the way to recovery at a moderate pace.” In December, the yen further declined in value as Japan issued new stimulus and continued to aggressively inject liquidity into the financial system, while the U.S. slowed its easing measures. On Dec. 27, the rate fell to 105.02 yen to the dollar, the weakest yen in five years and two months. Meanwhile, the Japan Student Travel Association, which keeps track of travel arranged by elementary, middle and high schools, announced the number of trips carried out and participating students in the 2012 school year (ending March 2013); in terms of visits, China dropped out of the top 5, replaced by Micronesia.
The Bank of Korea announced that the gross domestic product (chained volume measure of GDP) in the third quarter of 2013 grew by 1.1 percent compared to the previous quarter, the same figure as given in the advanced estimates. Korea’s exports expanded at a faster pace than expected in December, reaffirming the view that Asia’s fourth-largest economy remains on track for recovery. The finance ministry revised up its growth forecast for 2013 to 2.8 percent from June projection of 2.7 percent, maintaining the economy will likely continue to pick up after growing 2 percent in 2012. The ministry expects the economy to grow 3.9 percent in 2014.
According to the Korea Tourism Organization, the number of Korean outbound travelers in November was 1,154,064, 3.3 percent higher than the number of outbound travelers in November 2012. The won/dollar exchange rate fell 6.56 over the past month to be closed at 1,051.08 won per dollar. (MVA)