Continental denies side-stepping NMI in promotions

Posted on Nov 23 1999

Dissatisfied with the response from Continental Airlines over the exclusion of the Northern Marianas in its promotion, Gov. Pedro P. Tenorio yesterday reacted strongly by asking whether the carrier plans to continue servicing the island.

“I want Continental to say…’We don’t want to provide service to the CNMI,’ [if] that’s the way they want it,” he told reporters in an interview.

But the governor pointed out the CNMI would still want to maintain their partnership with the airline in boosting tourist traffic to the island from key destinations, particularly in Asia where most of its visitors come from.

“I’d like them to see that we continue to have this good working relationship [like] in the past and we’d like to see that Continental continues to assist us in going abroad and joining MVA in promoting the CNMI as one of the destinations,” he added.

Mr. Tenorio had written to Continental, Micronesia’s largest air carrier, after it apparently dropped the CNMI from the list of “tropical island getaways” it is promoting as Pacific island destinations in the region.

The campaign, which appeared on its OnePass Update newsletter, is marketing Guam, Ponhpei, Yap, Chuuk, Kosrae and Palau — islands it described as “emeralds of the Pacific” that are rich in “culture, language, history and stunning tropical attractions.”

It came months after Continental scaled back direct flights to Saipan from key cities in Japan, the island’s main market, due to shrinking passenger haul.

The governor’s letter addressed to Gordon Bethune, chairman and CEO of the Houston-based carrier, in which he expressed his disappointment over the omission. The letter had drawn lukewarm response from airline officials who said they would refer the matter to the OnePass marketing division.

“I am not satisfied with their explanation. They have overlooked what we are trying to say. I am not happy with their response,” said Mr. Tenorio. He did not say what his next steps are.

An oversight and a typo

Wally Dias, staff to the vice president for sales and promotions of Continental Micronesia, said he would look into the complaint as he said that the exclusion might have been an oversight and a typographical error. He was unaware of the problem until yesterday when sought for his comment.

“It’s unfortunate if that is true, but there is no policy to exclude the CNMI in any of our tourism campaign. We will continue to work with MVA,” he said in a telephone interview from his office on Guam.

According to Mr. Dias, Continental’s marketing management team on Guam oversees promotion of the region worldwide and they see to it that CNMI is included in its campaign.

In fact, he noted that Continental and MVA will jointly undertake a big marketing campaign during a trade fair organized by the Japan Association of Travel Agents in Tokyo next week. Held every two years, the fair is the largest gathering of all tour operators and travel agencies in that country.

A diving fair is also scheduled be held in the mainland where the carrier and the tourism authority will have another joint promotion, said Mr. Dias.

“Continental has not forgotten the support it has received from the CNMI. We also contributed mightily to the local economy for the past 30 years,” he explained. “We will continue to support the CNMI.”

Mr. Dias added: “The governor, MVA Managing Director Perry Tenorio and Chairman Sablan have met with us many times if they see a problem. The fastest way to resolve this is to call Wally Dias at his office on Guam.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Tenorio defended local officials who flew to Manila over the weekend to meet with representatives of Palau and Air Nauru executives for a proposed Palau-Manila- Saipan service, from criticisms of wasteful spending of taxpayers’ dollars.
Air Nauru is reportedly planning to acquire a B737 for the expanded service.
“I don’t know whether they went on a junket but we can’t just sit here and wait until they come. Somebody has to go and look for it,” he said.
He expressed optimism that the meeting would be productive if direct flight service from the Philippines or any other country could be established “so that we could have more tourists and more visitors” into the CNMI.
At least four officials are currently in Manila for the talks, including MVA Board Chairman David M. Sablan, CPA Board Director Roman T. Tudela, Rep. Manuel A. Tenorio and Rep. Herman Palacios, who replaced Rep. David M. Apatang in the delegation.
J.M. Guerrero, who heads the Aviation Task Force that sought the meeting, canceled his scheduled trip at the last minute for personal reasons.

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