MVA to proceed with tourism pitch in China • Chairman Sablan says safety nets will be put in place to ensure tourists depart after visit
Despite the restrictions imposed by the Department of Labor and Immigration, the Marianas Visitors Authority has not given up on its plan to entice tourists from mainland China to visit the Northern Marianas.
MVA Board Chairman Dave M. Sablan said he believes that the process, which has been put in place by the immigration officials, would not allow any visitor to run away and become an illegal alien.
While the Commonwealth handles its own immigration system, Sablan said such opportunity must be taken advantaged by the CNMI government.
Although visitor arrivals have been improving, there is still very little indication of an immediate recovery in the islands’ tourism economy. MVA believes that tapping visitors from mainland China would help revive the ailing industry.
Gov. Pedro P. Tenorio has asked MVA to proceed cautiously in dealing with the issue of tapping the Chinese market in fear this would irk Washington if the United States is not properly consulted.
Although the CNMI has its own labor and immigration laws, Tenorio still has to consult the federal government on this matter since it is a political adjunct of the U.S.
Washington has been pushing to strip the Northern Marianas of its immigration and wage-setting powers, accusing the island government of failure to control influx of workers, address labor woes and raise minimum wage — long standing problems straining the CNMI-US ties.
MVA has been trying to tap alternative markets as a result of Asia’s financial crisis, which has resulted in a downturn in arrivals from Japan and Korea, CNMI’s main source of tourists.
To ensure that the Chinese tourists would leave the CNMI after their brief stay, Sablan has drawn up some steps to be followed to address such concern.
The authorized travel agencies in China would be asked to send background information of Chinese tourists who will be coming into the Northern Marianas. This will be checked by DOLI before they are given clearance.
A local tour agency acceptable to the Chinese travel agents will collect the travel documents of the tourists and see to it that they will leave on the scheduled date for departure. The local counterpart of the Chinese travel agencies will be required to post a bond of $250,000.
So far, there has been no progress on MVA’s plan to tap the huge Chinese market to come to the CNMI after DOLI suspended indefinitely the issuance of entry permits to citizens of PROC due to refusal of Chinese officials to cooperate in accepting the return of its nationals deported from the Commonwealth.
However, Sablan believes that nonresident workers from China should be treated differently from the tourists since a separate procedure would be used for their entry to the CNMI, said Sablan.