With the ongoing protests in Hong Kong and the trade war between the U.S. and China, the number of Chinese tourists visiting the CNMI are at their lowest in the last several years.
Speaking at a recent Marianas Visitors Authority board meeting, board member Thomas T.H. Liu reported that arrivals from China were 15% off last year’s mark at 18,356 visitors in July.
Liu notes that Saipan currently has six flights from China, with four coming from Shanghai and two from Guangzhou.
He blames the dip in the arrival numbers of Chinese tourists on the ongoing trade war, the devaluation of the renminbi, RMB, or Chinese currency to that of the U.S. dollar, and China’s economy, which, after many years of runaway growth, has reportedly entered a slower—and more normal—pace of growth.
Before this, the Chinese market was considered the CNMI’s No. 1 source market for tourists. The CNMI’s other major source markets are South Korea and Japan.
Liu cited the ongoing protests in Hong Kong as playing a part in the shortage of arrivals via Hong Kong Express, which provides charter flights to Saipan. He said that they have been aggressively marketing the CNMI in China as a tourist destination and will do everything they can in order to increase arrival numbers.
MVA board member Jerry Tan agreed with Liu’s comments that the impact of the Hong Kong protests are impacting the arrival numbers. Tan also pointed out that the months of August and September are the slower months in terms of arrival numbers as the summer season is ending.
Tan said there are still flights arriving from China right now, but United Airlines will soon discontinue flights from China on Oct. 14, Hong Kong Airlines waved goodbye this month, and Hong Kong Express is still averaging lower arrivals.
“The China market is currently facing a bigger challenge this year as the CNMI is still undergoing recovery from Super Typhoon Yutu, but at the same time the U.S.-China trade war is happening,” Tan said. He believes that, with the ongoing tensions, the Chinese economy is affected and that means a different behavior among Chinese tourists.
MVA board chair Marian Aldan-Pierce states that China issues are not only impacting the CNMI but other destinations as well. She describes the case of Hong Kong as very serious and may have strong impacts on the tourism industry. “We need to be cognizant…that these situations are beyond the MVA’s control, but we need to continue marketing overseas so that we do not lose our face in the markets. …Otherwise they will stop coming here, and that will have severe implications for the entire economy,” she said.
An online report in Forbes state that the number of Chinese tourists dropped by more than 23% in Hawaii in the first four months of 2019, compared to the same period last year. In Arizona, incoming Chinese tourists declined by 3.7% in 2018 after quadrupling from 2010 to 2017.