Efforts continue to repatriate stranded tourists

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Not all stranded passengers of HK Express have gone home and the CNMI government continues its efforts to have the remaining Chinese tourists—about 40% of the original 130 passengers—repatriates, with the help of the Chinese Consulate General in Los Angeles.

Press secretary Kevin Bautista said the Torres administration continues to work on the matter. “We are doing our part to make sure that we take care of the tourists out here. So, we’ve been vigilant about it. Maybe in the [next] few weeks,” he said.

The stranded passengers were left behind following HK Express Airways’ abrupt decision to suspend flights due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Bautista added that Torres is closely communicating with the Commonwealth Ports Authority, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, and the Chinese Consulate General to ensure the return of these stranded tourists.

“The governor has been in direct consultation with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Brian Humphries. The governor and CBP have managed this very closely with CPA. There are [also] plans right now, in consultation with the Consulate General office in LA, to make sure we take care of these tourists so we can send them back home,” he said.

Bautista added that the Marianas Visitors Authority has also been informed about the stranded tourists and are doing its part in helping the tourists that remain on Saipan.

“CPA has readily informed MVA. We’re now working on a process in which we just make sure that we take care of these tourists,” Bautista said.

Bautista mentioned that Torres sent a letter to Hong Kong Express Airways chief executive officer Mandy Ng last week and the airline responded quickly to Torres’ recommendations.

According to Saipan Tribune archives, CPA board chair Kimberlyn King-Hinds said nearly 80 of Hong Kong Express Airway’s passengers who were left behind have departed Saipan as of last week.

King-Hinds said CPA expects that all of the remaining stranded passengers will be returning home in the next week or so.

Hong Kong Express was the only airline that reportedly left behind tourists following flight suspension on Feb. 6 as a result of the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Other airlines that suspended flights are China Eastern Airlines, Sichuan Airlines, and Beijing Capital Airlines.

Kimberly Bautista | 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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