Lawmakers are urging the Marianas Visitors Authority to come up with plans to bring back more Japanese tourists to the Commonwealth to further stimulate the economy.
Japan has been one of the Commonwealth’s biggest source markets for tourism but its economic difficulties and the decision of Japan Airlines to stop flights to the Commonwealth has resulted in the number of Japanese tourists dwindling drastically.
Currently, tourists from China and Korea outnumber tourists from Japan, according to the latest report by MVA. But Japan is still a significant market, considering that tourism has now become the CNMI’s top industry.
“We need to bring back Japanese tourists,” Rep. Joseph Lee Pan Guerrero (R-Saipan) said during a meeting with MVA officials on Capital Hill yesterday.
“The Japan market is what started the CNMI’s economy, let’s find a solution to bring the tourists back,” the lawmaker said.
MVA officials met with lawmakers, including members of the House Committee on Tourism that Guerrero chairs.
The MVA was given an audience at the House to give an overview of the tourism industry. The last time the MVA met with government was in 2012.
For Rep. Angel A. Demapan (R-Saipan), it might also help if the MVA targets a younger segment of the Japanese market, to complement older tourists visiting the islands.
For Rep. Edmund Villagomez (Ind-Saipan), the question is how to bring back Japan Airlines, which used to bring tourists directly from Japan.
Most tourists from Japan now fly via chartered flights, at a frequency of twice a day.
MVA managing director Perry Tenorio said the agency is looking at low cost carriers as one way to encourage more tourist arrivals.
Tenorio assured lawmakers that the MVA office in Japan continues to “encourage more flights in the CNMI” and that the MVA continues to find ways to develop tourism on the islands.
“We do appreciate the lawmakers engaging the MVA to know the shared challenges that we face as far as tourism is concerned,” Tenorio said, adding that he personally feels that there is no added pressure for the MVA to bring in more tourists.
He said MVA would welcome more meetings with lawmakers, if needed.