The CNMI government, together with the Commonwealth Ports Authority and the Marianas Visitors Authority, will collectively seek the support of the U.S. Department of Transportation to grant the remaining 100 flight permits for the China Southern Air.
This, as Gov. Juan N. Babauta vowed to extend all necessary assistance to the MVA to cultivate the China market, which is seen to alleviate the condition of the CNMI tourism industry.
Babauta and other government officials welcomed Saturday the arrival of 198 delegates led by Lt. Gov. Diego T. Benavente, during the maiden flight of the China Southern Air Boeing 757.
The Governor extended his congratulations to China Southern Air Vice President Li Fenghua, Managing Director Chai Hai Bo, and Tinian Dynasty Hotel and Casino owner Michael Kwan.
Babauta said the arrival of the China Southern Air would boost government efforts to reach the CNMI’s one million tourists target for the next four years.
“This is good for the economy and an addition to the Korean Air’s resumption of flights to the CNMI. We are trying our best to tap the China market,” said Babauta in an interview.
He explained that together with the Office of the Washington Representative, the MVA, the CPA, and the Tinian delegation, the Governor’s Office would push for the issuance of flight permits to the airline company.
“We will try to work with the US-DOT to approve more flights for the China Southern Air and to lift the charges to make it easier for the airline to fly to the Commonwealth,” he explained.
The move also gained the support of CPA Executive Director Carlos H. Salas who disclosed that plans are underway on how to secure the additional flight permit for the China Southern Air. The airline was given only four permits for the Guangzhou-Saipan route.
“The China market is a good market, if we will be able to secure the additional flight permit, we are seeing an additional 19,000 tourists to the CNMI,” said Salas.
The executive director said that the ports authority would do its utmost to help China Southern Air secure its additional permits and conduct its regular twice-a-week flight to the CNMI. The four permits allow the airline to complete its two-week charter flights.
Aside from Salas, MVA Acting Managing Director Vicky Benavente promised to bolster efforts to promote the CNMI to China and to secure additional funds that would assist the Tinian Dynasty Hotel in its promotional activities.
“They have done the best they can do to have this chartered flights. We will help them promote the CNMI and we will do our part to ensure that we cultivate this market,” said Benavente.
Aside from government officials, the inaugural flight was welcomed also by Miss CNMI Universe 2002 Virginia Gridley and Miss CNMI International 2002 Christine Juwelle Cunanan.
With the entry of the China Southern Air, officials believed that the Northern Marianas is anticipated to witness a major increase in tourism-related business activities akin to the expected influx of Chinese travelers into the islands.