‘Travel bubble’ still up in the air

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The CNMI’s plans for a “travel bubble” between the CNMI and South Korea remains uncertain because the Korean Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport has yet to respond to the CNMI’s request for one.

In a brief interview with Marianas Visitors Authority managing director Priscilla Iakopo, she said MVA has already sent to the Korean ministry its entire plan for the travel bubble that it drafted with the E-Land Group of Companies and they are just waiting for a charter approval from the MOLIT and the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency.

“We haven’t gotten a response yet. We provided them our whole plan, like safety protocols and such. There’s nothing we can do now. It all on Korea now. The ball is in their court,” she said.

When asked about the next targeted launch date for the travel bubble, Iakopo said there is no set date yet.

An internal source from E-Land said they are just waiting for a decision from the South Korean government before they start advertising the travel bubble there.

During a monthly MVA meeting last month, Iakopo, who is a member of the MVA Travel Bubble Committee, said the target date to launch the travel bubble was Feb. 5.

The committee is also talking about starting the process to launch the travel bubble in Japan, given how long it is taking to launch the program for South Korea.

However, the travel bubble for Japan may be a little different in terms of safety protocols, given that it will take about six months to launch. One of the proposed ideas for the Japan travel bubble was setting Rota as the destination.

A travel bubble is an exclusive arrangement between two jurisdictions that will allow a relatively easier exchange of travelers between the two.

The travel bubble, which is a collaborative effort between E-Land Group of Companies, MVA, and the CNMI administration, is supposed to be a bridge between Saipan and South Korea and is being touted as a tentative reopening of tourism in the CNMI, allowing Korean tourists to visit the CNMI under an exclusive arrangement.

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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