MVA expects return of Japanese tourists in July
The Marianas Visitors Authority is optimistically shooting to launch its Tourism Resumption Investment Plan for Japan sometime in July, with airline carriers reportedly expressing interest in resuming the Japan-Saipan route.
According to Ivan Quichocho, MVA board member and TRIP chair, MVA has been getting positive feedback on its plan to launch TRIP Japan, which they hope to launch in July. The TRIP program basically lays out the details of what’s called a travel bubble program—a dedicated tourism channel between two destinations. It will require the participation of airlines, which will get incentives for taking part in the program.
“We expect to award the [request for proposals for airlines] beginning of May so we say July is our starting time. That’ll give us 60 days for the marketplace to really get out and hopefully, when we finalize this, restrictions will continue to be pulled back,” he said.
So far, Quichocho said MVA has had discussions with Skymark and United Airlines, which have both expressed an interest in resuming their Japan-Saipan route.
“Basically, we’ve had meaningful communications with two carriers—one being United and the other is Skymark,” he said.
However, Skymark has declined to bid once the RFP is put out as it is still recovering from its losses.
“Over the last two years, Skymark has been operating at around 30% to 40% load factor, and lost millions. So at the moment, they are primarily focused on stabilizing their domestic operations, rebuilding their financial resources, and stemming the losses. At this point, they don’t really have an appetite to engage in anything outside of that until they can stabilize the main body of their operation, which is the domestic operations. And so with that they’re not able to participate in the trip, as we are targeting for June July period and they’d like to decline if we put out an RFP,” Quichocho said.
United, on the other hand, was very engaging, he said.
“We do anticipate to receive some feedback to our initial discussions with them and that was the week prior to last. We anticipate that we’ll have some sort of feedback within this week. So it’s very encouraging right now, the initial feedback from the one carrier that’s positive,” he said.
According to a previous article on the Saipan Tribune, MVA had expected to launch the Japan travel bubble by mid-December to early January with the first step being to inform the Japan Ministry of Transportation and Ministry of Health about the CNMI’s interest in reopening the route between Japan and the CNMI.
Back in September 2021, TRIP Japan ad hoc committee chair Nick Nishikawa started discussions with the MVA Japan office on how they will carry out the first steps in establishing the Japan travel bubble.