Faced with snaking lines at the Francisco C. Ada-Saipan International Airport that give tourists a negative first impression of the Commonwealth, the Marianas Visitors Authority has created a task force to gather information on why it keeps happening.
The task force consists of MVA board members Jerry Tan and Tommy Kim, along with other members that have not been disclosed.
“They will have other people from the community who are equally concerned about the situation,” said MVA board chair Marian Aldan-Pierce.
According to Aldan-Pierce, the goal of the task force is to obtain a measure of the total amount of time tourists spend lining up before being granted entry to the CNMI, as opposed to Customs and Border Protection’s data that only measures the amount of time tourists spend in front of an immigration officer for clearance.
The task force would collect data from the time passengers of a whole flight disembark from the plane to the time the same passengers leave the airport altogether.
“The community must be concerned because the tourism industry is the only economic revenue source of the CNMI. That’s it,” said Aldan-Pierce.
Aldan-Pierce added that the long waiting time pushes tourists to consider other destinations that allow them to enter within 30 minutes of disembarkation.
“We cannot, as an island nation, afford that,” she said.
MVA has already brought up the issue with representatives of Customs and Border Protection.
According to MVA, wait lines reach up to 3-4 hours before tourists are able to leave the airport. MVA emphasized that the 3-4 wait hours are unacceptable, especially when the elderly and children are involved and taking the time of the day into consideration, since most international flights to Saipan are in the early hours of the morning.
MVA managing director Chris Concepcion said in an earlier interview that the long wait times hurt the CNMI’s image and makes the islands look “less competitive.”
The spike in Chinese and Korean tourists entering the CNMI is also contributing to the long lines. The number of Chinese and Korean tourists is at an all-time high due to the Chinese, Korean, and Russian visa waiver, with Chinese and Korean tourists leading the pack at 206,538 and 200,875 arrivals, respectively. Chinese and Korean tourists comprise 81 percent of the total number of arrivals in the CNMI.