Efforts to strengthen awareness about the CNMI around the world as a tourist destination brought many successes in 2017, making it the Saipan Tribune’s top story for 2017.
In a poll within the newspaper’s editorial department, the revival of this once-moribund industry has caused even federal agencies to sit up and take notice.
One of the most promising development is the CNMI being ranked as the third-fastest growing tourist destination in the world by the United Nations World Tourism Organization’s World Tourism Barometer. The report indicated that the CNMI’s tourism arrivals grew by 37.3 percent, with 531,000 visitors, in 2016.
The Korea market is ranked as a top performing source market, China and Taiwan as the second largest source, and Japan ranking third after being marked as the top source market many years ago.
According to the Marianas Visitors Authority, fiscal year 2017 closed with a huge influx of tourists, marking an arrival of 653,150 tourists and resulting in a 30-percent increase in arrivals over fiscal year 2016. This is the fourth highest fiscal year arrivals in the CNMI’s history, the record being 726,690 in fiscal year 1997.
MVA managing director Chris Concepcion said that for the last 18 months, arrivals have been consistently up.
Arrivals from Korea increased 30 percent in September to 25,691 visitors. Korea was also the top-performing market for the year, registering a 66-percent growth rate to comprise over half of all visitors.
Another factor for the CNMI tourism success is accessibility. Currently, the carriers that fly people in and out of the CNMI are Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, Jeju Air, Jin Air, HK Express, HK Airlines, Beijing Capital, T’Way, Eastar, China Eastern, and Philippine Airlines. Nine of the carriers fly direct from Korea to Saipan and China to Saipan.
Due to the arrival of thousands of tourists, hotel occupancy rose to 90 percent average among the 11 member hotels of the Hotel Association of the Northern Marianas Islands in fiscal year 2017.
Many hotels, big and small, have opened and began construction in 2017 and the world famous international hotel brand Hilton Hotels and Resorts is one of them.
Tourism is currently on the upswing and considered as the economic driver of the CNMI in 2017.