‘Will only fly fully vaccinated tourists’
Jeju Air, a South Korean airline, plans to resume its Incheon-Saipan route on July 10, in conjunction with the CNMI’s effort to jumpstart its economy by opening its doors to South Korean tourists under its Tourism Investment Program, or TRIP.
“Jeju Air has been approved by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transportation of Korea to fly into the CNMI in anticipation of their participation in the TRIP program. The plan right now is to have weekly regularly scheduled flights, which will hopefully begin on July 10,” said Commonwealth Ports Authority board chair Kimberly King-Hinds.
For their part, the South Korea government through its MLIT is working to authorize group tours of fully vaccinated South Korean citizens to countries with stable COVID-19 health and safety protocols in place. To date, South Korea has vaccinated almost 6 million of its citizens.
The TRIP program was released to the public last week. It is a set of travel protocols intended to revive the CNMI’s tourism industry. It is a pilot program that will run for two months and offers incentives to partners who will take part in it, while also prioritizing the health and safety of people in the CNMI.
As part of the incentives offered to airlines, flights below 40% load will be incentivized by the CNMI government, provided that tickets prices are to be sold at $400. Airplane seat load of over 40% will not get an incentive.
Tourists on these flights will be taken to designated hybrid quarantine facilities. On Day 1, all passengers will receive a PCR test and all visitors must remain in their rooms. On Day 2 to 4, if the results are negative, visitors will now be free to enjoy the facilities that include water parks, access to the beach, restaurants, and the golf course. All hotel staff and workers will also stay in the facilities. Day 5 and after a second PCR test with negative result, visitors will be allowed to leave the hybrid quarantine facility.
Third, tourists are transferred to an accredited Corridor Hotel that TRIP will incentivize to offer 24-hour service, available rooms, dining accommodations, water sports activities and must be willing to open with COVID-19 monitoring guidance.
Tourist incentives includes free PCR tests and “Travel Bucks” consisting of $500 worth of vouchers that they can spend on each island they visit, thus encouraging island hopping and staying longer. The voucher will also allow them to use for hotel accommodations, food, etc. The more islands they visit, the larger amount of Travel Bucks they will receive. The program also give incentives to tour/travel operators and agencies both here and in South Korea to help sell the CNMI as an ideal travel destination. Funds to give incentives will come from the American Rescue Plan Act.
TRIP was organized by the Tourism Resumption Task Force and implemented by the Marianas Visitor’s Authority.
Gov. Ralph DLG Torres said he supports the program 100%. “…This is a roll-out that is not perfect but this [program] is what they—the airlines, hotels, local business owners etc.—agreed on. This was discussed a whole lot and especially how it is going to work. This is the best scenario that we have. …It’s the opportunity that we have today,” he said.
Other TRIP partners such as airlines, hybrid quarantine and corridor hotels, and request for proposals were released yesterday, according to MVA board chair Viola Alepuyo and the scope of work is available at the MVA office in San Jose. The last day to submit an RFPs to MVA is on June 23.