Having tourists from Australia under a Travel Bubble program would be a “bonus” for the CNMI and would boost efforts to diversify the Commonwealth’s tourism market, according to Gov. Ralph DLG Torres Friday.
Asked during a radio press briefing about Marianas Pacific’s plan to create Saipan-Australia flights, Torres said he supports a Travel Bubble program between the CNMI and Australia and that he hopes the start-up airline, Marianas Pacific, is able to move forward with its goals.
The governor said he knows that the Marianas Visitors Authority supports the Saipan-Australia route and that different entities have supported such a business model.
“I hope we can do this sooner than later. This is a great opportunity for us, while we take care of the transformation of our tourist sites,” he said.
Torres said the CNMI must do what it needs to do to make the CNMI a great destination. “And, of course, our goal is to turn CNMI into a word-class destination,” he said.
The governor pointed out that tourism is the CNMI’s only revenue-generating industry right now and, without tourists, the CNMI does not have an economy.
Throughout its history, the CNMI has had three major tourist destinations—Japan, South Korea and China—with small numbers of tourists from Russia and some from other destination. Having visitors Australia, the governor said, would be an opportunity for the CNMI and MVA and an opportunity for the entire CNMI to diversity its tourism market.
He said the more destinations there are, the better for the CNMI because when one destination has an economic downturn or issues, the other destinations will carry the CNMI through.
“So with the pandemic, Australia is looking at the CNMI as an opportunity because we are one of the safest places on Earth. We have strict protocols. That’s the reason why we are safe,” the governor said.
The MVA board recently voted to establish an Australian Travel Bubble ad-hoc committee—a temporary committee designed specifically to assist in the launch of the Australian Travel Bubble in the CNMI.
Marianas Pacific aims to bring in 140,000 passengers in its first year of operation.