Nearly a year since Super Typhoon Yutu crippled the Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport and halted all flights to and from the CNMI in October 2018, the CNMI’s tourism industry has yet to rebound to the same level it was before the super typhoon devastated the CNMI. In fact, as Hotel Association of the Northern Mariana Islands chair Gloria Cavanagh describes it, the hotel occupancy numbers are “scary.”
In an interview last week, before Super Typhoon Hagibis passed by north of Saipan, Cavanagh said the number of flights or tourists have not come back to the CNM just yet, that it’s been a very soft September in terms of tourist arrivals.
The Pacific Islands Club Saipan, like the rest of hotels on the island, is struggling to fill rooms, said Cavanagh, who is also the vice chairwoman of the Marianas Visitors Authority board of directors and serves as general manager of PIC.
Her comments reflect much of the sentiments of many hotel employees, whose hours have been cut, and many restaurants that cater to tourists, which are reporting weak sales.
“It’s really…how I can say…scary,” said Cavanagh.
For one, the CNMI is having issues with Hong Kong in terms of arrivals. Cavanagh believes that, beginning last month, flights from Hong Kong were suspended when protests happened right at the airport in Hong Kong itself. She noted that when the riots at the Hong Kong airport happened, the CNMI lost the China market arriving from Hong Kong.
Cavanagh pointed out that Hong Kong is an “extremely lucrative” market for the CNMI, considering that many of its residents have the cash to spend.
She said she is quite sure that the sales of stores such as the Duty Free Shoppers or at the ARC Building and all the other high-end establishments are probably down in September because that particular market is considered an asset.
She said the China market could also be soft because of issues beyond the CNMI’s control—the tariff war between the U.S. and China.
Cavanagh noted that there was an advisory earlier this summer where China encouraged Chinese tourists not travel to U.S. destinations.
“Even though…we’re trying to make ourselves distinct from the U.S.—and just be an island destination—you know we are part of the U.S.,” she said.
Cavanagh said Korea market has also been soft, going down for the past 20 months.