December is target date for Japan Travel Bubble

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The Marianas Visitors Authority aims to launch the Japan Travel Bubble as early as this December, with the first step being to inform the Japan Ministry of Transportation and Ministry of Health about the CNMI’s interest in reopening the route between Japan and the CNMI.

According to MVA managing director Priscilla Iakopo, December is the ideal target date to launch the Japan Travel Bubble based on the current rate of vaccinations in Japan.

“We were advised [by MVA Japan office] that December of this year is probably a good target date as vaccination rates in Japan continue to [accelerate], as well as how the Japan government is also controlling the cases there. We understand that the Japan government has not been pushing to entertain any Travel Bubble with any other destination right now because they’re really trying to control their COVID-19 cases there. In the past several weeks, they’ve had over 20,000 in a day of confirmed cases,” she said.

Iakopo said about a week ago, TRIP Japan ad hoc committee chair Nick Nishikawa started discussions with the MVA Japan office on how they will carry out the first steps in establishing the Japan Travel Bubble.

“We were discussing how we should start conversations with the Japan market. We wanted to start having these conversations because when we started TRIP Korea, it took us several months to actually get to where we are at now. We just wanted to reach out to all of our travel partners in Japan, and also our partners here, to start having the conversations to create a TRIP plan for Japan,” Iakopo said.

Ivan Quichocho, TRIP Korea ad hoc committee chair, agreed that December is a great target date but the first step is really to establish communication between the CNMI administration and the Japan administration to officially let them know that Saipan wants to reestablish the Japan market through a Travel Bubble.

“Given the pace of vaccinations currently in Japan, we all agree that it’s not going to be within the next few months. December’s a very good target to shoot after. A lot can happen between now and then. But we do need to really establish, first off, the communication with [Japan’s] Ministry of Transportation, and understand how they are looking at outbound travel and overall travel for the country. At that point, we will link in COVID-19 Task Force chair Warren Villagomez to have these key discussions as it will be another government-to-government discussion. Hopefully, we will have a good understanding of where the Japan government wants to go and the pace they want to go, then start setting down concrete plans for the reopening of the Japan market,” he said.

MVA board chair Viola Alepuyo said during a previous MVA board meeting that it is important to aggressively push forward with the Japan Travel Bubble sooner rather than later while the CNMI has the advantage of being the safest travel destination in the world right now.

“We only have one thing that we can sell right now, and that’s how safe our community is. That’s a marketing tool that nobody else in our region can boast of. Let’s use that marketing tool and be aggressive to establish the other travel bubbles so that we can get the tourists coming in in order to boost our economy,” she said.

Kimberly B. Esmores | Reporter
Kimberly Albiso Bautista 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 kimberly_bautista@saipantribune.com.
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