Cavanagh: Closing other offshore offices impossible, a problem
The offshore office of the Marianas Visitors Authority has already been closed for about two months now, largely due to the austerity measures being implemented government-wide.
MVA board vice chair Gloria Cavanagh disclosed this in an interview Monday, saying the MVA board of directors voted a couple of months ago to close the Russia offshore office.
Right now, there are only about 100 Russian tourists coming in, she said.
MVA wants to keep the Russia market alive because there are still a lot of repeat guests that are coming from that country, Cavanagh said, but they had to make some tough choices to save for the payroll of MVA employees.
Pacific Islands Club Saipan used to have a lot of Russian guests, but there is no direct flight from Russia right now, said Cavanagh who is the PIC general manager.
She said the last direct flight was a charter back in August 2016.
“That’s it. So they come through China [or] Korea to get here,” Cavanagh said.
It was only last September, when then-MVA managing director Christopher A. Concepcion stated that MVA feels the Russia market still holds potential for the CNMI’s tourism industry because East Russia is very close to the CNMI.
Concepcion said Russian tourists can visit the CNMI visa-free, which is a huge selling point because the Commonwealth is the only part of the United States that allows Russians to come without a visa.
Russians are known for staying for long periods and spending the highest per capita among the CNMI’s tourism markets.
According to the MVA yesterday, citing the May visitor arrival numbers, Korea retains its position as the top-performing source market for the CNMI. China and Japan arrivals follow. Last year, MVA reported that the remaining markets such as Russia make up only 7 percent of visitors.
With respect to MVA’s offshore offices in China, Korea, Japan, and Taiwan, Cavanagh said that closing those offices is impossible and would create a problem for the CNMI.
“Once you close the offshore marketing and once you stop marketing the destination, then you leave it, it’s going to cost 10 times more to try to even get it back,” Cavanagh said.
She said the answer to the lack of revenues is actually for the CNMI to do more promotion and not less.
She recently disclosed that MVA owes its offshore offices about $1.7 million, as the Department of Finance has yet to remit $4 million in hotel occupancy tax to the MVA.