‘CNMI in stable position to resume economic activity’

Posted on Jun 22 2020

“The CNMI is in a stable position to resume economic activity.”

Thus said Gov. Ralph DLG Torres in a letter to U.S. President Donald J. Trump, pointing out that resuming international flights is the key to restarting the Commonwealth economy.

“Unlike many communities throughout the United States, the CNMI economy is heavily centralized on its single tourist sector. The tourism industry accounts for approximately half of total economic activity and nearly all non-public sector employment income,” Torres said.

COVID-19 has resulted in the shutdown of the CNMI’s tourism industry since mid-March, with flights being suspended for months and devastating the CNMI economy.

Torres told the President that it is his hope that the resumption of flights from South Korea will be the first step in resuming economic activity in the CNMI, and allow for a system that can be replicated throughout the CNMI’s other tourism markets: Japan and China.

“In recent years, tourist arrivals from South Korea have represented the majority of our monthly and annual arrivals, and the South Korean tourist market is of significant economic value to our economy and the U.S. jobs present within it,” he told Trump.

Torres also presented Trump with the CNMI’s Tourism Resumption Blueprint—the Commonwealth’s plan to resume tourism responsibly and safely.

“The blueprint we have in place for the resumption of international flights from South Korea is built upon the strength of our community-testing initiatives currently in effect along with our network of COVID-19 monitoring and incident response developed in partnership with our Commonwealth Healthcare Corp., the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,” he said.

The governor informed Trump that the CNMI is in the process of instituting changes throughout the islands’ tourism corridors to enhance monitoring and risk mitigation efforts.

“The federal government and the CNMI government are key partners in our tourism industry. Under your leadership, the CNMI economy has truly been given the opportunity to grow. We look forward to once more being productive members of the American economic community as we rise from the ramifications of this pandemic,” he added.


The blueprint outlines the partnership among the CNMI government, the private sector, and the governments and travel partners in the international source countries to foster the resumption of tourism on island.

Under the plan, the CNMI government sets a pathway for the resumption of commercial activity based on results of the mass testing, provide resources and guidance to private sector partners on COVID-19 mitigation protocols and safety precautions, and continue community-wide testing and reestablish restrictions in the interest of safety for residents and visitors should concerns arise.

In partnership with the private sector, the CNMI government will identify best practices and mechanisms for international flights that will safeguard the health and safety of visitors and residents, and foster agreements with international tourism industry partners,

Health and safety of residents and visitors remain a priority, and so a reporting mechanism will be instituted between the CNMI government and the source countries’ governments for incident reporting and monitoring.

The private sectors will create and enforce mitigation and safety precautions in all operations where they face customers, ensure prompt reporting of health concerns, and maintain appropriate licenses. They must also follow restrictions and protocols set by the CNMI government, and take an active role in the monitoring and protection of visitors and domestic employees throughout their operation.

Core elements

The resumption of the CNMI’s tourism program is founded on five elements: expansion of the CNMI testing initiative; the establishment of safe tourism corridors; connecting tourism corridors with community monitoring; rapid response program; and the marketing of Safe CNMI tour packages.

The CNMI’s unique capability to test large parts of the domestic population is the foundation of efforts to resume commercial activity. To date, the CNMI has collected 7,155 specimens on Saipan, 458 on Tinian, and 556 on Rota.

“The lower prevalence of COVID-19 cases in the CNMI creates a safer environment for visitors. Ensuring a robust testing system for employees in direct contact with visitors ensures transmission of the disease can be mitigated both for the visitors and the domestic population,” Torres said.

For the safety of visitors and residents, tourism corridors throughout the CNMI will be identified by health care officials. Each element of the corridor will be staffed by employees with proper personal protective equipment.

“Priority should be given to the resumption of activity within self-contained resort establishments as central nodes of the tourism corridor. Hotels with restaurants, entertainment, and facilities within their premises will serve to ensure access to quality tourism products,” he said.

The COVID-19 Task Force and the CNMI government will also establish a rapid response program to respond to incidents of concern that arise from a monitoring point within the tourism corridor.

“Rapid and timely response to potential health risks will protect domestic employees and residents, as well as other visitors in potential interaction with the disease. The tourism stakeholders will comply with the requirements for rapid response and assist in the containment of any incidents,” he said.

To market Safe CNMI Tour packages, as much as possible, international travel to the CNMI for the purposes of tourism should be marketed and booked through certified CNMI tour operators and progress through approved and safe tour packages.

Iva Maurin | Correspondent
Iva Maurin is a communications specialist with environment and community outreach experience in the Philippines and in California. She has a background in graphic arts and is the Saipan Tribune’s community and environment reporter. Contact her at
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