Japan golfers show interest in the CNMI

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Japanese golfers are starting to show some interest in returning to Saipan after over a year-long pause as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Viola Alepuyo, Marianas Visitors Authority board chair, high-end Japanese visitors who are interested in golfing have shown an interest in Saipan as a destination, with the winter months fast approaching.

“The request that have come in have been [from] a lot of high-end Japanese visitors, the golfers. Their interest is in staying for no less than two weeks, maybe up to even two months. Especially with the winter season coming up, there’s a lot of interest in coming to Saipan. They’re even willing to fly from Japan through Guam to get here, but that’s not something we want to encourage. We want to look at other options to have them come here directly from Japan, as opposed to through Guam because of the situation with COVID,” she said.

One of the solutions MVA is looking at, Alepuyo said, is to look at airlines that are willing to service a Japan-South Korea-Saipan route to eliminate stop-overs in Guam.

“That’s one of the things that we’re exploring,” she said.

Meanwhile, TRIP Korea chair Ivan Quichocho said discussions are ongoing between MVA’s Japan partners and TRIP Japan chair Nick Nishikawa on how to approach a Travel Bubble type program between Saipan and Japan.

Currently, one of the approaches discussed was, unlike the South Korea Travel Bubble, Japan wants to utilize their vaccine passports to opt out of mandatory quarantine.

However, Quichocho said it’s difficult to promise that because aside from the fact that it’s not MVA’s call, vaccination rates could still be different in the next few months.

“Right now, Japan is over 50% vaccinated and they anticipate they’ll be 70% by the end of October and they’ll likely to be over 80% in November. The Japan market, unlike Korea, wants to utilize their vaccination rate and vaccine passport, to be able to come in and potentially consider a quarantine-free entry. Since the target launch date is November/December, it’s very difficult for us to try and say ‘Okay, that’s the plan’ because that’s not within our wheelhouse,” he 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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