FOR CNMI’S PILOT TOURISM INVESTMENT PROGRAM
‘Only 1 hotel will be selected as hybrid quarantine hotel’
Only one hotel will be selected as the designated hybrid quarantine hotel on Saipan for South Korean tourists under the CNMI’s pilot Tourism Investment Program, or TRIP, according to the Marianas Visitors Authority.
In response to a question from Rep. Christina E. Sablan (D-Saipan) about TRIP’s hybrid quarantine hotel during the House Ways and Means Committee’s budget hearing last week, MVA managing director Priscilla M. Iakopo said they don’t know yet which hotel will be used for this purpose. She said the process to select a hotel for the hybrid quarantine facility is currently in the “request for proposal” process and that it is being done in coordination with and approval of the Office of the Attorney General.
“For the hybrid quarantine facility, what was proposed is that upon arrival in Day 1, all passengers will be transported to the hybrid quarantine facility,” Iakopo said.
It was earlier reported that the last day to submit an RFP to MVA is this Wednesday, June 23.
Iakopo said the hybrid quarantine hotel employees would have to test negative in order to be released from the facility.
MVA board chair Viola Alepuyo said the rationale behind it is to keep the community safe.
Alepuyo said they made it clear to all the hotels that are interested in this RFP that not only would they dedicate their entire facility but their staff as well.
“So let’s say for example it’s PIC [Pacific Islands Club] that’s chosen. So PIC would not be open to any members of public. The only people that will be in PIC will be the tourists that are coming in,” she said. In addition, PIC staff will also be housed in PIC as they will not be allowed to leave the hotel.
After five days, if those hotel staff are done with what they’re doing, they have to test negative and then they’re released, Alepuyo said.
“It’s part of the contract. They don’t have to respond to the RFP if they don’t want to. But it is a necessary requirement in order to keep our community safe,” Alepuyo pointed out.
Sablan said she’s just curious logistically as how would that work to require people who are residents here to stay at the quarantine facility.
“Like just to get the grocery shopping or run errands or whatever, you know, they wouldn’t be able to do that until after a test,” Sablan said.
Alepuyo said it’s no different than working on a cruise ship.
“If you’re going to go work on a cruise. You get on the ship…you’re stuck on that ship until you come back on shore,” Alepuyo said.
Iakopo said four to five days is the average stay of Korean visitors in the CNMI.
Iakopo said they are just focused for now on the South Korea market.
Alepuyo said the reason why they focus on South Korea is because they are in communication with the Korean government.
Alepuyo said the Korean government sent the Commonwealth a letter saying they want to start the travel bubble with the CNMI because it’s the only Level One jurisdiction so it’s safe for their community members to go here.
“So that’s the reason why Korea was chosen,” she said.
The MVA chair said they had reached out to Japan through MVA’s Japan offices and that the message from them is they don’t even want to deal with anyone until after the Olympics or after November.
Alepuyo said China is closed so there’s nothing the CNMI can do about that.
Sablan asked if there are discussions at this point with the CNMI COVID-19 Task Force or with the partners in Korea about any considerations that might be made for fully vaccinated travelers from Korea.
Alepuyo said that was also one of the considerations outlined in the letter from the Korean government to the CNMI. Korea has a 14-day quarantine requirement for incoming travelers.
Alepuyo said what the Korean government is saying is that because the arrivals will be coming from the CNMI, which is a Level One jurisdiction, which is relatively safe, and requires them to come with a negative test before arrival, then require them to quarantine, then they’re willing to consider not requiring their returning residents to be quarantined for 14 days.
Alepuyo said this changes every day, every hour, depending on their communication with their Korea office.
Jeju Air, a South Korean airline, plans to resume its Incheon-Saipan route on July 10, in conjunction with the CNM’s efforts to jumpstart its economy by opening its doors to South Korean tourists.