Gov. Ralph DLG Torres said the CNMI is just waiting for approval from the South Korea government in order to implement the “travel bubble” program, which would be an exclusive arrangement between two jurisdictions to facilitate travel between them.
The South Korea government needs to approve the charter flight for the travel bubble. The initial target date to have the first travel bubble flight from South Korea to the CNMI is Jan. 8.
Torres said yesterday that they will possibly get an official notice from South Korea today, Tuesday.
Speaking at a radio news briefing last week, Torres said other than the documents that they are waiting, the CNMI government will continue to do its end here in terms of working with the Marianas Visitors Authority and private partner to have the plan executed efficiently.
“We are trying to promote the CNMI but, at the end of the day, it’s a new norm of tourism,” he said. That means both the CNMI community and the tourists that are coming to the CNMI must understand that there’s going to be a new norm for tourism. The governor said there’s going to be some changes in dealing with tourists the way the CNMI did before COVID-19.
“We’re trying to adjust but it’s important that our health priorities here don’t change,” he said.
Torres reiterated that the system to fight against COVID-19 works and that he will not change the system.
Torres said last month that the CNMI continues to work on reopening the tourism industry through a travel bubble agreement with source markets such as South Korea and Japan. He said the CNMI, however, has remained cautious to ensure any resumption puts the health and safety of the people first.
Torres said with the collaboration developed throughout this crisis, and with months of careful consideration, planning and needed caution from the Marianas Visitors Authority, the Governor’s COVID-19 Task Force, and the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp., he is excited to see the resumption of tourism from South Korea this January.
He said this will be a “new normal” for the industry, one that will change the way the CNMI operates with new requirements aimed at keeping the residents safe as they bring back jobs, and a level of normalcy that has been disrupted in these trying months.