According to the Marianas Visitors Authority, arrivals to the islands of Saipan, Tinian, and Rota reached 37,022 visitors in September 2019 compared to 43,924 in September 2018.
Overall, in fiscal year 2019 ending on Sept. 30, the Marianas received 424,838 visitors, a 30% decrease compared to fiscal year 2018. Visitors arrivals were severely impacted by Super Typhoon Yutu in late September 2018 and its residual effects, including closure of the Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport, restoration of all flights not being realized until March 2019, and reduced marketing funding for the MVA. Arrivals were also dampened in recent months by the devaluation of the Chinese yuan, violent protests in the major airport hub of Hong Kong, and the softening of the Korean economy.
Korea marked 19,785 arrivals in September 2019, an 11% decrease compared to September 2018. Korea is facing an economic struggle due to the trade war between Korea and Japan, declining exports, and, to a lesser extent, trade tensions between the U.S. and China. However, Asiana Airlines will add a daily daytime flight from Oct. 27 to the end of the year and T’Way Air will operate a second daily daytime flights to Saipan beginning Oct. 28, 2019, until late March 2020. Total arrivals from Korea in fiscal year 2019 were down 35% to 192,178 visitors.
Arrivals from China were 33% off last year’s mark at 12,730 visitors in September, a traditional low season between summer holiday and National “Golden Week.” The market is suffering from continued tension in Hong Kong, which provides direct connectivity with the Marianas for the Pearl River Delta region in mainland China. Hong Kong Airlines has suspended its service between Hong Kong and Saipan since late August. In addition, the rising exchange rate, the highest in 11 years, is also affecting potential tourists’ decision to visit an American destination. Furthermore, the competition among overseas destinations in China is getting tougher than before, which allows tourists more choices. Total arrivals from China in fiscal year 2019 were down 21% to 186,141.
The lone bright star on the charts, Japan posted 1,019 visitors for the month, 127% higher than September 2018 due to three direct charter flights to Saipan by Skymark Airlines during the month. The airline has also announced the commencement of regular direct flights from Tokyo-Narita to Saipan within this year. Total arrivals from Japan in fiscal year 2019 were down 70% to 11,846.
South Korea’s economy grew at a slower than expected pace in the second quarter due to sluggish exports and smaller government spending. The economy is expected to be further weighed down by an escalating trade dispute with Japan and the ongoing U.S.-China trade war. There are growing concerns about possible deflation as South Korea’s consumer price growth heads for a record low this year.
China, the world’s second largest economy, is expanding at its slowest pace since the early 1990s. China saw industrial output grow at its slowest pace since 2002 in August. Domestic issues, the trade war with the U.S., and swine fever are all putting a brake on China’s rapid expansion. Both the weakening in the domestic economy and deteriorating external environment, including a global slowdown and the U.S.-China trade tensions, have a role to play in China’s slowdown.
Japan National Tourism Organization reported that the number of Japanese overseas travelers in August 2019 was up 3.7% to 2,109,600, showing growths for 18 months in a row. Japan’s consumer price inflation fell to 0.3% year-on-year in August 2019 from 0.5% in the previous month and well below market expectations of 0.6%. It was the lowest inflation rate in six months. (PR)