The planned “travel bubble,” when the CNMI cautiously reopens its tourism sector, has been pushed back and the Marianas Visitors Authority has a new target date—February.
MVA, in partnership with the E-Land Group of Companies, which owns three hotel properties in the CNMI, were expecting to launch the “travel bubble” with South Korea back on Jan. 8 but that didn’t happen, with acting MVA board chair Gloria Cavanaugh saying they couldn’t get a charter flight approved for the target date, hence the delay.
She said they are actively applying for another charter and the MVA is hopeful that the program will commence in early February.
“Jan. 18 is when we’re going to reapply for the charter. Our next target date will be early February,” Cavanagh said.
MVA is still waiting for travel restrictions in South Korea to loosen up before they can reapply for a charter flight from South Korea to the CNMI. “It’s because of the high level that they are in right now. They’re at 2.5, which is the second [risk level]. That is until Jan. 17. So, after Jan. 17, we will reapply for the charter. It looks like [the South Korean government] is okay with it. It’s just what we have to go through a couple of different agencies in order to get the approval. So, it’s still on,” she said.
Cavanaugh said it’s a good sign that tour agencies across South Korea are receptive to the idea and that there is “a lot of chatter” about the program. Cavanaugh added that all major tour agencies in South Korea know about the CNMI’s “travel bubble” plan but tours cannot be sold yet until a date is confirmed and a confirmed date cannot be made until there is a charter.
“All of the major tour agents know about it. There’s chatter within the [community] so people do know about it. But the tour agents are not going to go out and actively sell it yet until they actually have a confirmed date. So there’s a lot of chatter. There’s a lot of interest in it, but there’s no confirmation on the reservations [and] that is because there isn’t a date. Once there is a date, then the tour agent will actually go out and [sell the program],” she said.
A travel bubble is an exclusive arrangement between two jurisdictions that will allow the relatively easier transit between the two areas.