Omicron results in TRIP cancellations

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As a result of the continued spread of the omicron variant of COVID-19, a concerning number of Travel Investment Resumption Plan, or TRIP, passengers have cancelled their bookings, according to the Marianas Visitors Authority.

In a statement from MVA managing director Priscilla Iakopo, she reported about 27% of TRIP passengers have either canceled or postponed their trip to the CNMI.

That is roughly over 2,000 cancellations based on the projected number of TRIP participants MVA reported back in October.

“These cancelations and/or postponement are results of various factors [but] primarily fears over the omicron variant,” Iakopo said.

Back in October, MVA had expected to serve roughly 7,794 TRIP participants through the end of the year via the South Korean travel bubble program. However, MVA deputy managing director Judy Torres said that, as of December, the CNMI had only served roughly a total of 4,834 TRIP participants from October to Dec. 16.

“MVA has been seeing that the spread of the new omicron variant is causing a concerning number of booking cancellations,” she had said.

According to Torres’ breakdown of the 4,834 TRIP participants, the CNMI had a total of 1,983 participants in October, 2,121 in November, and 730 TRIP participants from Dec. 1 to 16.

In a previous article on the Saipan Tribune, MVA extended the TRIP program from December to the end of January to sustain the resumption of tourism in the CNMI.

“With the successful jumpstart of the Marianas tourism economy through the TRIP program, the outlook for continued gains had been positive for the new year. This includes the anticipated doubling of flights from South Korea to Saipan from three times weekly to six times weekly beginning early January,” Torres said.

With the extension of the program comes a reduction in Travel Buck incentives.

“Travel Buck incentives are to be reduced in mid-December from up to $250-$500/person per island to $100/person at a flat rate. Travel Bucks, which can only be spent in the Marianas, are still necessary for the Marianas to remain competitive with competing destinations—like Guam—which are offering similar incentives but to the airlines. We plan to continue to provide PCR tests required for the passenger’s return to Korea. I should note that, prior to omicron, airline incentives have not been utilized for any flight in October and November. Also on a positive note, we have been receiving some visitors who have been paying their own hotel accommodations since the hybrid-quarantine requirement under TRIP was lifted last month,” she said.

Kimberly B. Esmores | Reporter
Kimberly Albiso Bautista has covered a wide range of news beats, including the community, housing, crime, and more. She now covers sports for the Saipan Tribune. Contact her at kimberly_bautista@saipantribune.com.
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