Travel Bubble kicks off with 92 visitors

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The Travel Bubble that the CNMI government has been working on for several months now finally kicked with its first batch of flights last Saturday, bringing in a total of 92 visitors.

According to Priscilla Iakopo, Marianas Visitors Authority managing director, the first two flights, which came at 2pm last Saturday via Jeju Air and Asiana Airlines, surpassed MVA’s expectations.

“We anticipated load factors to be lower. However, this total number exceeded that,” she said.

Iakopo explained that MVA anticipated to fill just 20% of the flight load for each airline but the number of visitors that came in last Saturday exceeded that.

Asiana and Jeju Air each have a total capacity of 171 so MVA expected to garner roughly 34 Travel Bubble participants for each flight for a target total of 68 passengers for the first batch of visitors under the program. However, the first batch surpassed this expectation by roughly 35%, with 92 passengers.

“It was more than what we had anticipated because, before the travel bubble agreement and the flight that came in, we were actually anticipating 20% load factor for each flight. But we exceeded the 20% on both,” she added.

Iakopo said last Saturday’s flight was just the first. The CNMI is set to welcome Travel Bubble visitors in the next eight weeks, with the next flight expected to arrive at the end of the month. All flights are from South Korea.

“I feel excited that this is the first step in resuming tourism here in the CNMI and, although there is a lot of work to do, we will continue to do whatever we can together with the Office of the Governor, CHCC, the COVID Task Force, and all our partners here,” she said.

The two hotels that were chosen to house these tourists are Saipan World Resort and Kensington Hotel Saipan. After their mandatory five-day quarantine at Pacific Islands Club Saipan, these tourists will be moved and they have the option to choose whether they would like to stay at World Resort or Kensington.

Over a week ago, the CNMI saw its official first batch of visitors—a group of YouTube influencers and members of South Korea’s media. The group was sort of a test-run for the Travel Bubble that the CNMI officially launched last Saturday.

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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