China tourists could return by May


With the United State’s decision to lift the testing requirement for visitors from China, prospects for the CNMI’s tourism industry are looking up, with its largest market looking at a possible comeback sometime in May.

Commonwealth Port Authority chair Kimberlyn King-Hinds said that CPA has already received inquiries from Chinese airlines interested in returning to Saipan.

With this, the CNMI could possibly see the return of Chinese tourist as early as May of this year, King-Hinds said.

“Yes, we have received inquiry from the China market. Beijing Capital has [already] reached out to CPA expressing an interest to resume services sometime in May,” she said.

Because the Chinese market makes up about 41% of the CNMI’s tourism industry, the interest in returning to the CNMI is welcome news, King-Hinds said.

“This is welcome news not just from a ports operators perspective but also for the economy in general. The China market represented 41% of the market prior to the pandemic and in order us to return to the level that we were…we need that market to come back online or find an alternative market to replace that loss. For CPA to bring down costs, we need more airlines coming to the CNMI,” she said.

The inquiry comes following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recent announcement rescinding its previous order requiring passengers flying from China to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test prior to boarding, or proof of recovery from COVID-19.

The CDC website states: “On March 10, 2023, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention…has rescinded order titled ‘Requirements for Negative Pre-Departure COVID-19 Test Result or Documentation of Recovery from COVID-19 for Aircraft Passengers Traveling to the United States from the People’s Republic of China.’”

According to CDC, this rescission took effect for flights departing for the United States from the People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong, Macau, and others after 3pm last March 10.

According to the official order, CDC first issued an order last Dec. 30, 2022, prohibiting the boarding of passengers 2 years of age or older on an itinerary that included the United States on any aircraft departing from the PRC, including the Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau; or any aircraft departing from a Designated Airport if the passenger had been in China within the 10 days prior to their departure for the United States, unless the passenger presented paper or digital documentation of a negative result for a COVID-19 viral test taken no more than two calendar days before the departure of the flight or documentation of recovery from COVID-19. The order was issued in response to concerns that COVID-19 cases were surging in the PRC.

However, current available epidemiologic data through global datasets and modeling results indicate that the COVID-19 surge experienced by the PRC has returned to a baseline level.

“According to World Health Organization data, daily cases peaked at 7,000,000 cases per day on Dec. 23, 2022, then declined 99% by Jan. 24, 2023, leveling off around 20,000 cases per day from Jan. 24 through Feb. 21, 2023,” the order stated.

This massive decline in cases seen per day and other available data prompted the CDC to rescind its December 2022 order.

Kimberly Bautista Esmores | Reporter
Kimberly Bautista Esmores has covered a wide range of news beats, including the community, housing, crime, and more. She now covers sports for the Saipan Tribune. Contact her at

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