As projected, total visitor arrivals to the Marianas for the fiscal year are holding steady compared to the same period last year at 365,536 visitors, less than 3 percent off last year’s mark.
Although visitor arrivals to the Marianas dipped 6 percent in April 2018 compared to April 2017, the figure was buoyed by a 20-percent jump in arrivals from Japan.
According to the Marianas Visitors Authority, arrivals to the islands of Saipan, Tinian, and Rota totaled 49,198 in April 2018, compared to 52,438 visitors received in April 2017.
Arrivals from Japan posted a third consecutive month of growth, bounding 20 percent higher than April 2017 at 4,631 visitors. An increase of 22 additional seats daily since November 2017 and continued strong marketing has contributed to the overall increase in arrivals, as well as an uptick in bookings during Golden Week beginning April 29. The Marianas is anticipating 30 summer charter flights and the commencement of new, double daily regular flights from Japan in the winter season.
“We are in the process of revising forecasts on Japan visitor arrivals over the next several months, even as we anticipate the commencement of new regular service in the winter season,” said MVA managing director Christopher A. Concepcion. “While we will have to tighten our belts, we are optimistic about the rebound of the market, based on the last few months of incremental growth. In the meantime, we are looking forward to 30 charter flights over the summer. Obviously, there is still demand in Japan for the Marianas.”
Arrivals from Korea dropped 20 percent to 21,928 visitors, yet the country retained its position as the top performing source market. This decline is largely due to the suspension of Incheon-Saipan service by Eastar Jet and Busan-Saipan service by Asiana Airlines since October 2017.
Jin Air has also temporarily suspended its Incheon-Saipan service until October 2018, but is considering possibilities to resume its flights in the winter season.
Now operating five weekly flights since April 6, T’way Air will resume its daily schedule from June 1 through October. It has also announced plans to operate charter flights with 189 seats from Sept. 21 to 29 during Chuseok, the Korean Thanksgiving holiday week. During the period, over 1,500 seats will be added.
Arrivals from China grew 11 percent compared to April 2017 to 19,448 visitors. Steady airlift from five cities (Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, and Hong Kong) and strategic marketing are key factors that will continue to help maintain and boost arrivals from this large market.
As a result of recent roadshows in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, and Xi’an, The Marianas has received more attention as a preferred tourism destination. In addition, the temporary closure of Boracay in the Philippines is also expected to increase China tourism to the Marianas.
The unemployment rate in South Korea hit a 17-year high in March, according to government data. The retail and service sectors experienced significant losses of jobs, raising concerns about the possible side effects of a minimum wage increase this year. The average USD/won exchange rate in April was 1,066.27 won, a slight decrease from the previous rate of 1,070.38 won in March.
Chinese SNS travel website Mafengwo shows that the Southeast Asian islands will continue to be popular in the off-season. The top 10 island destinations are Phuket, Bali, Nha Trang, Koh Sumui, Semporna, Saipan, Sabah, Pattaya, Krabi and Maldives.
Economic growth in Japan likely lost some momentum in the first quarter as higher inflation and low wage increase weighed on consumer spending. Industrial production also lost some steam in the period, while business confidence among large manufacturers moderated for the first time in over two years. That said, the shock is expected to be temporary, and the economy should continue posting solid growth rates throughout the rest of the year. Monthly average rate for U.S. dollar to Japanese yen exchange in April 2018 was 107.50, compared to 106.03 in March 2018. (PR)