Michael Merner is optimistic that the CNMI will soon see the recovery of the Japanese tourism market with the entry of a number of low-cost carriers and new airlines that would ply the Japan-Saipan route. Five LCCs will soon begin its operations from late this year to early 2017.
Japanese arrivals in the CNMI dropped significantly in the last six years from 49 percent of the CNMI’s tourism market in 2011 to 13 percent this year. China had the biggest jump from 15 percent to 41 percent, while Korea had been consistent and comprises the largest market at 44 percent.
The AVIAREPS executive vice president for Asia and Oceania was the guest speaker in yesterday’s Marianas Visitors Authority General Membership Meeting at the Saipan World Resort’s Royal Taga Hall. He informed the members about MVA’s recovery plan by bringing back one of the CNMI’s largest tourist markets.
He said Japanese tourists are a much tougher market to attract since they are more traditionalists compared to the Koreans and Chinese, which have been visiting the CNMI in throngs making it two of the biggest contributors to the local economy.
But Merner said the entry of new airlines, especially LCCs, is the key to the rise and the return of the Japan market. He even projected that Japan will have a 23 percent tourism market share in 2017, up 10 percent this year.
“In the coming 12 months, the CNMI is expected to see at least three new airlines launching its service from Japan. An expected service by these airlines is an inter-island lift,” said Merner.
Hong Kong Express is waiting for the approval of their application from the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration and they plan to start their Japan to Saipan flights this October. The flights would originate from Japan’s secondary cities.
Dynamic International Airways is launching its charter flights by year’s end, while another Korean LCC will also start its own charter flights in December out of Japan’s secondary cities. Another leading Japan LCC will announce its Japan-Saipan flights in October.
Merner, during his presentation, added that the Japan LCC would then launch its service in July of next year.
The three-member Japan Airlift Development Team—led by director Vinay Rajan with managers Keiichi Tsuboi and Junji Inoue—is also in active negotiations with other Asian LCCs that have aircraft on the ground overnight in Narita for a 2017 launch.
Air Asia, Vanilla Air, t’way, Jeju Air, Jet Asia, Eastar Jet, Jin Air, Air Busan, and Peach are the other Asian LCCs that the JADT is targeting.
From 80,832 Japanese arrivals in the 2015 calendar year, Merner projected that it would drop to 63,000 this year. He, however, projected the number to almost double to 125,000 in 2017.
“We’re going to see the recovery of the Japan market with all the continued investments taking place. There are exciting new hotels, a series of high-profile developments related also with restaurant and retail, and is starting to generate buzz in Japan,” said Merner.
He added that the development of a casino and a 6-star hotel are some of the new products and destinations that the CNMI will be offering to Japanese tourists. The said developments, if completed, would rival those of Tahiti, Bali, and the Maldives, according to Merner.