Responding to concerns about CNMI tourists waiting in long lines to get through immigration, Marianas Visitors Authority board chair Marian Aldan-Pierce said that wait-times are actually much longer than the ones posted on the Customs and Border Protection website.
“[MVA] appreciates that [CBP] has now started including wait times at the Saipan International Airport on their website. …However, it does not paint an accurate picture of the situation,” she said.
Aldan-Pierce believes the times posted on the CBP website merely reflects the amount of time for a CBP officer to process a tourist, which is counted in minutes or seconds. She pointed out that tourists spend a much longer time while waiting in line as opposed to the time spent in the CBP area itself.
Aldan-Pierce raised this concern in her response to a letter from Delegate Gregorio C. Kilili Sablan (Ind-MP) regarding the long immigration lines tourists endure before getting to enjoy the CNMI.
“We are concerned about the waiting time in the arrivals corridor where people line up. The fact remains that hundreds of visitors are waiting in line for hours almost every morning to clear immigration,” she said.
Aldan said that in addition to the amount of time tourists need to travel to their airport, which is usually the case for larger countries (one hour); checking in of baggage prior to departure (two hours); and the travel time itself (four to five hours), tourists need to endure two to three, up to four more hours of waiting time for immigration clearance.
“Imagine waiting in an area for hours where there are no chairs and no bathrooms,” she said.
In an attempt to alleviate the long wait lines, MVA is thinking of installing a Wi-Fi connection so tourists can surf the Web while waiting and at least soothe their discomfort. The Commonwealth Ports Authority is also on the lookout for solutions.
“The MVA is working to install Wi-Fi, but there are some structural impediments hindering that work. We have received word from the airport that chairs are on the way, but the real issue still needs to be resolved,” she said.
Aldan-Pierce, however, said she is grateful to Sablan for his assistance and suggestions and is open to discuss the issue with the delegate.
“We thank Congressman Kilili for reaching out on a federal level to find a solution to this problem and we welcome the opportunity to sit down with other stakeholders to reverse this adverse effect on our tourism economy. Our entire community needs to be concerned about this situation,” said Aldan-Pierce.