The Marianas Visitors Authority has extended the Travel Investment Resumption Plan, or TRIP, from December to the end of January to sustain the resumption of tourism in the CNMI.
According to MVA deputy managing director Judy Torres in her capacity as acting managing director, MVA extended the TRIP program until Jan. 31 as a result of the success of the program so far.
“With the successful jumpstart of the Marianas tourism economy through the TRIP program, the outlook for continued gains had been positive for the new year. This includes the anticipated doubling of flights from South Korea to Saipan from three times weekly to six times weekly beginning early January,” she said.
In addition, Torres noted that with the extension of the program, Travel Buck incentives will also be reduced.
“Travel Buck incentives are to be reduced in mid-December from up to $250-$500/person per island to $100/person at a flat rate. Travel Bucks, which can only be spent in the Marianas, are still necessary for the Marianas to remain competitive with competing destinations—like Guam—which are offering similar incentives but to the airlines. We plan to continue to provide PCR tests required for the passenger’s return to Korea. I should note that, prior to omicron, airline incentives have not been utilized for any flight in October and November. Also on a positive note, we have been receiving some visitors who have been paying their own hotel accommodations since the hybrid-quarantine requirement under TRIP was lifted last month,” she said.
As a result of the rise in the number of COVID-19 cases in the CNMI and the spread of a new variant, omicron, Torres said the MVA board is looking into making changes to the current program to both support recovery and the revival of the tourism industry.
“We are now seeing that the spread of the new omicron variant is causing a concerning number of booking cancellations, so the board will need to revisit TRIP to evaluate what changes may be needed to continue to support the continued revival of tourism and job security for the community,” she said.
“Omicron is certainly a critical juncture point. The MVA is closely monitoring the evolving market situation with both our travel trade partners and the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. and the CNMI COVID-19 Task Force and will make continue to make decisions that both prioritize community safety while still working to keep our economy recovery on track,” she added.
The Marianas is one of two destinations that have a travel bubble agreement with Korea government through the Ministry of Land Infrastructure and Transportation.