November 2015 visitor arrivals to the Northern Mariana Islands dipped 3 percent compared to November 2014. According to the Marianas Visitors Authority, arrivals to the islands registered 37,870 visitors in November 2015, compared to 39,137 visitors received in November 2014.
Arrivals from China continued their steady growth, rising 4.4 percent compared to November 2014 to reach 14,477 visitors. The MVA participated in the China International Travel Mart on Nov. 13-15 in Kunming. During the three-day travel fair, the MVA hosted key media on-site to generate media buzz and boost consumer awareness of the CNMI as a world-class holiday destination. Meanwhile, Dynamic Airways is finalizing plans to launch new charter flights from the new gateway cities in northern China to Saipan starting in January, which will generate a further increase in the number of Chinese visitors to the CNMI in 2016.
Arrivals from Korea also grew 3.8 percent in November to 16,848 visitors. The increase is attributed in part to the launch by Asiana Airlines of an additional daily flight from Incheon to Saipan from Oct. 25 using an Airbus A321 with 171 seats, which provides an additional 5,000 seats per month out of the Korean market. The MVA launched a major “All New Marianas” online promotion with Asiana Airlines to strengthen FIT sales by emphasizing the Marianas’ image as clean and safe, generating an estimated total of 350,000 exposures to target customers online.
Arrivals from Japan fell 37 percent in November to 4,423 visitors as the CNMI felt the full effect of Delta Air Lines cutting its Narita to Saipan night flight in October, a move that has dropped airlift from the Japan market to just one daily flight and further deepening the crisis in the Japan market for the CNMI. In early December, MVA and Delta jointly organized a familiarization tour to the CNMI for over 50 Delta staff from across Japan, and a meeting was held between a CNMI delegation led by acting governor Ralph DLG Torres and top regional Delta management to strategize on revitalizing the market. The MVA is also working with Delta, the Hotel Association of the Northern Mariana Islands, Japan Saipan Travel Association, and the MVA Japan Ad Hoc Committee on several strategies, including vacation-oriented familiarization trips for major Japan travel agency staff to learn about the features that differentiate the CNMI from other beach destinations and to encourage key Japanese tour wholesalers to increase investment in CNMI promotions. To reverse the drop in airlift from Japan, the MVA has also added new airlift development specialists to the team to secure the re-launch of Delta night flights, boost the number of Asiana charters from Osaka and/or Tokyo, and conduct in-depth negotiations with all target low-cost carriers, including Air Asia, which is now actively evaluating new flights from Japan to the CNMI.
Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government has kept its basic economic assessment unchanged in November 2015. The latest report came despite recent government data showing that the Japanese economy shrank 0.8 percent on an annual basis in the July-September quarter. Still, the government did not change the overall economic assessment because “the environment surrounding companies is improving” partly thanks to a weak yen, an official spokesperson said. During the month of October, the yen remained virtually unchanged against the U.S. dollar (120.03 yen).
Terrorist attacks that killed nearly 130 Parisians had an impact on global financial markets and rattled Seoul. Uncertainty in financial markets over fears of additional attacks and a possible contraction in the European economy could trim already lowered projections for the global and Korean economies. The Korean Ministry of Strategy and Finance said it will watch for any negative impact on the country’s tourism and airline industries. The South Korean won/dollar exchange rate rose 14.01 won over the past month to close at 1,156.74 against the U.S. dollar. (MVA)