Visitor arrivals to the islands of Saipan, Tinian, and Rota grew 752% to 1,107 visitors in September 2021, compared to 130 visitors received in September last year.
According to the latest numbers from the Marianas Visitors Authority, South Korea, the CNMI’s largest source market prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, recorded 801 visitors in September compared to zero visitors last September.
This was the first time the MVA issued arrival numbers since the last time it released visitor statistics in April 2020. That year-ago report states that arrivals to the CNMI had dropped 85% to 5,226 visitors in March 2020, compared to 35,295 visitors received in March 2019. The same report stated that arrivals from China dropped from 16,558 arrivals to only 65 in March 2020, arrivals from Korea dropped 82% year-on-year to 2,450 visitors in March 2020 following the cancellation of the last of direct flights from Korea in mid-March, and visitor arrivals from Japan fell 19% to 1,685 visitors, with lone carrier Skymark Airlines ending direct flights on March 25, 2020.
Tourism prospects in the CNMI started showing signs of life in July this year, when the Commonwealth was able to hammer out South Korea’s first Travel Bubble and implemented what’s called a Tourism Resumption Investment Plan to reboot the market. Since July the Marianas has received 961 visitors from Korea compared to 14 visitors over the same period in 2020. Arrivals from South Korea are expected to continue to grow rapidly through the end of the year.
Meanwhile, 164 visitors arrived from the United States, marking a 179% increase compared to September 2020, and 108 visitors arrived from the neighboring island of Guam, a 13% increase for the month. A combined 34 additional visitors from all other destinations visited in September.
The CNMI has remained relatively unscathed during the pandemic due to strict COVID-19 safety protocols, including stringent testing and quarantine at all borders, a high vaccination rate of 83% of the eligible population, and overwhelming community cooperation with mask-wearing, frequent hand-washing, and social distancing.
The MVA is exploring the feasibility of implementing tourism resumption investment plans for Japan, Hong Kong/Taiwan, Australia, and neighboring parts of Micronesia. Asiana Airlines, Jeju Air, and T’Way provide direct flights to the Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport from Incheon. United Airlines flies daily from Guam. (Saipan Tribune/PR)