According to the Marianas Visitors Authority, arrivals to the islands of Saipan, Tinian, and Rota continued to recover in January 2019 following Super Typhoon Yutu, which hit the destination in October 2018.
While December 2018 arrivals were about half as many as the previous December, January saw 36,878 visitors, 33-percent lower than the 55,249 visitors received in January 2018, but still marking a double-digit jump in recovery over last month.
“Tourism is a volatile industry, influenced by many national and international factors beyond our control, even natural disasters like Yutu,” said MVA managing director Christopher A. Concepcion. “Fortunately, many hotels and other businesses were back to normal operations very quickly after the storm, but we are still working to overcome immense international publicity about the devastation of the storm. The Marianas Visitors Authority and our partners are implementing numerous strategies to restore confidence in and demand for the Marianas as a safe and beautiful destination, especially in our Korea market. It is taking time, but we are definitely heading in the right direction to restore our tourism economy, especially with six new charter flights from Japan scheduled to start next month.”
Although Japan posted an 83-percent drop in January to 631 visitors, compared to January 2018 when daily flights operated from Tokyo’s Narita International Airport, prospects for the market are bright with the commencement of direct flights from Tokyo with six charter flights on March 22-27, 2019, by Skymark Airlines. Package sales by travel agencies JTB, H.I.S. and KNT are selling well for the initial flights, and additional charters are being planned for Japan’s Golden Week holiday in April. The airline is also slated to start regular daily flights in July 2019, marking a much- anticipated turnaround for the once-dominant market.
Arrivals from China reached 18,880 in January 2019, only 4 percent off the previous year’s mark. The Marianas now receives 17 direct weekly flights from Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, and Hong Kong. In order to accelerate market recovery and drive sales performance, the MVA participated in 2018 National Tourism Fashion Awards, where the Marianas was named “Best Island Travel Destination.” Recruitment for Saipan Marathon 2019 continues in Shanghai, Hangzhou, Guangzhou and Xiamen. New promotions were developed, including expressway billboard advertisements in Guangzhou and metro advertisement in Shenzhen.
Arrivals from Korea posted double-digit recovery compared to December but were still 49-percent lower than January 2018 at 14,551, largely due to a 40-percent reduction in available air seats as the market continues to recover following Yutu. Asiana Airlines has also temporarily reduced it aircraft size with a corresponding reduction in seats from 250 to 175 per flight. Jeju Air resumed nighttime flights from Incheon to Saipan on Jan. 21. Last to resume flights since Yutu will be T’way Air, which is scheduled to resume five times weekly from March 31, increasing to daily flights on May 15. The MVA is continuing its “We Together” campaign through multiple on- and offline channels to reboot demand for the destination.
The Korean economy grew 2.7 percent year-on-year in 2018, retreating from the 3.1 percent gain in 2017 to its slowest economic gain since 2012. The average USD/won exchange rate in January was 1120.44 won, a slight decrease from the 1123.52 won rate in December 2018.
In December 2018, China’s nationwide consumer price index increased by 1.9 percent than the previous year.
In 2018, the number of Chinese outbound tourists reached a new high. According to the China Outbound Tourism Research Institute, the number of Chinese outbound in 2018 has exceeded 160 million.
The Japan National Tourism Organization reported that the number of Japanese overseas travelers was up 6.0 percent year on year, reaching 18,954,000 in 2018. (MVA)