Visitor arrivals up 25 percent in July
Visitors arrivals to the Marianas jumped 25 percent in July 2017 compared to July 2016. Total visits to the Marianas have reached 541,152 this fiscal year, already surpassing total arrivals of 501,489 last year, with two months remaining in the fiscal year.
According to the Marianas Visitors Authority, arrivals to the islands of Saipan, Tinian, and Rota registered 59,463 visitors in July 2017, compared to 47,736 visitors received in July 2016. This marks the third highest July monthly arrivals in Marianas history, the record being in July 1997. Overall, visitor arrivals are 32 percent higher so far this fiscal year compared to the same period last year.
“It’s turning out to be a phenomenal year for tourist arrivals, and that’s something the government, the private sector, and the community can all take pride in for our united efforts to support the industry,” said MVA managing director Christopher A. Concepcion. “While certain critical international and national influences on tourism remain outside our control, we can also see that it’s a proven winning solution to keep the hotel occupancy tax reserved for the MVA to continue to strengthen the industry, to use those funds efficiently and effectively under the leadership of our board, and to work together with the community to solve tourism problems and take advantage of new opportunities.”
Arrivals from Korea continued their double-digit upward trajectory, jumping 42 percent to 29,941 visitors. Arrivals to the Marianas from Korea are up 73 percent overall this fiscal year, driven by the stable supply of air seats.
As of July 2017, one national flag carrier and four low-cost carriers—Asiana Airlines, Jeju Air, Jin Air, T’way and Eastar Jet—provide Incheon-Saipan flight services, while Asiana Airlines and Jeju Air also offer flights between Busan and Saipan.
Continuous growth of Korean visitors is expected as Jeju Air has confirmed that it will have four times weekly Busan-Saipan services until March 2018.
Arrivals from China grew 19 percent compared to July 2016 to 23,207 visitors. With the launch of new scheduled charter flight service from Hangzhou and seasonal charter flight from Changchun and Nanchang to Saipan in July, visitor arrivals are expected to continue to increase for the remainder of the year.
Also, as summer vacation arrives, parents are more likely to take their children travelling. Promotional seminars with Biketo in Guangzhou and Dynasty Holiday Saipan Globe Hotel EB-5 road shows in Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Beijing will also increase the awareness of the Marianas and encourage more Chinese to visit Saipan, Tinian, and Rota.
Arrivals from Japan were at 3,385 visitors in July, 19 percent lower versus July 2016.
With Delta Air Lines’ single daily flight from Tokyo-Narita, airlift remains a key challenge for this important market. Heavily discounted travel packages available to Hawaii and Guam via Air Asia X and T’way, respectively, also make Saipan packages comparatively higher. Delta has added Saipan to their ongoing beach resort promotional campaign beginning in July, which includes promotions to Hawaii, Palau and Guam.
Japan arrivals are expected to stabilize, although the MVA remains cautious in its projections due to various factors that continue to affect this critical market.
Delta has also announced plans to use larger aircraft beginning mid-November 2017 through March 2018, adding 24 additional daily seats, which should increase overall arrivals from Japan.
The Korean government has approved a record hike in the minimum wage next year, an increase of 16.4 percent, up by 1,060 won to 7,530 won. It is the first time the minimum wage has risen by more than 1,000 over a year.
The average USD/won exchange rate in July was 1,139.33 won, a slight increase from the rate of 1,123.56 won in June.
Consumer price in Japan rose 0.4 percent year-on-year in June 2017, the same as in the prior two months and matching market consensus. Japanese companies continue to face severe labor shortages, with job availability improving further in June to the tightest level in over four decades while the unemployment rate declined. The jobless rate, meanwhile, fell to 2.8 percent in June from 3.1 percent the previous month.
Bank of Japan left its key short-term interest rate unchanged at -0.1 percent at its July 2017 meeting, as widely expected. The monthly average rate for U.S. dollar to Japanese yen exchange in July 2017 was 112.34, up compared to 110.83 in June.
In the first half of 2017, the per capita consumption expenditure of Chinese citizens was RMB 8,834, which reflects an actual growth rate of 6.1 percent compared to the same period in 2016, after deducting the price factor. According to online travel company TUNIU, during the first half of 2017 the top 10 island destinations were Phuket, Bali, Maldives, Saipan, Boracay, Sabah, Koh Samui, Nha Trang, Mauritius, and Fiji. High-end travelers favored the resorts in Mauritius and Fiji over the other eight listed destinations. (MVA)