Korea arrivals up over 100 pct. for third consecutive month
Visitor arrivals to the Marianas increased 48 percent in April 2017 compared to April 2016.
According to the Marianas Visitors Authority, arrivals to the islands of Saipan, Tinian, and Rota registered 52,438 visitors in April 2017, compared to 35,394 visitors received in April 2016. This is the third highest April arrivals in CNMI history, with the record being set in April 1998.
Arrivals from South Korea more than doubled for the third month in a row, growing 102-percent higher to 27,463 visitors and representing over half of all tourist arrivals to the Marianas for the month. Arrivals to the Marianas from Korea are up 83 percent overall this fiscal year, driven by direct flight services via five airlines: Asiana Airlines, Jeju Air, Jin Air, Eastar, and T’way.
Arrivals from China grew 16 percent compared to April 2017 to 17,511 visitors. The 2017 Shanghai World Travel Fair in March increased awareness of the destination through industry and consumer channels. Also, continuous media and agent familiarization tours have strengthened exposure and the sales network. Lastly, road shows jointly hosted by the MVA and key partners have been well-received in major cities with growth potential, including Tianjin, Jinan, Shijiazhuang, and Taiyuan.
“The Marianas economy is thriving as we enjoy a continued increase in visitor arrivals,” said MVA managing director Christopher A. Concepcion. “A very large part of this success is the CW-1 visa program that provides accessibility to an adequate workforce to sustain the tourism industry and the CNMI visa waiver program that makes it more convenient for visitors from key markets to visit the Marianas, versus other beach resort destinations. The MVA agrees with the recent findings of the U.S. Government Accountability Office that both these programs are critical for the vitality of the Marianas tourism industry and for continuing economic growth. The MVA will continue its aggressive marketing campaigns in all source markets to ensure the Marianas brand remains relevant.”
Arrivals from Japan fell 10 percent to 3,857 visitors in April, largely due an increase in package tour costs and the overall drop in outbound travel from Japan to beach resort destinations. Due to higher visitor arrivals from other markets, hotel room rates in the Marianas are higher than average. As a result, many families chose to travel to cheaper destinations during the Golden Week holiday in late April and earlier May. The MVA is in advance talks with several airlines to launch charter service from unserved cities in Japan in the coming months. There are concerns capacity at the Saipan International Airport may hinder an agreement, but negotiations will continue as the MVA continues to place high priority on the revitalization of the Japan market.
Korea’s Finance Ministry reports the economy is showing signs of recovery led by a recent jump in exports and an upturn in consumption. Outbound shipments rose for the fifth month in succession in March to $48.9 billion, up 13.7 percent from $45 billion a year ago. Sales of travel-related products rose sharply ahead of the Korean holiday break in early May. The average USD/won exchange rate in April was 1,134.33 won, a slight decrease from the March rate of 1,148.02 won.
The economy of China continues to stabilize. After more than 10 years of rapid growth, China’s outbound tourism reached its climax in 2015, with a year-on-year increase of 9.8 percent. A 5-percent increase in 2016 indicates that the growth phenomena are gradually leveling out, while still considered to be very healthy. According to the annual objectives of China National Tourism Administration and market indicators spelled out in the “13th Five-Year Plan,” steady, manageable growth is the trend for the next number of years.
Bank of Japan gave most an optimistic assessment of the economy at its monetary policy meeting on April 26 and 27, saying Japan’s economy has been turning toward a moderate expansion. Japan National Tourism Organization reported that Japanese overseas travelers were up 12 percent year-on-year to 1,739,000 in March 2017 (preliminary figures), marking double-digit growth for two months in a row. Monthly average rate for the U.S. dollar to Japanese yen exchange in April 2017 was 110.01 up from 113.00 the previous month of March. (MVA)