The Marianas Visitors Authority says the inaugural flight for TRIP Japan is set to arrive on Sept. 1 and will be the first of many flights expected to bring in over 8,000 Japanese visitors to Saipan throughout the rest of the year.
In a brief interview with MVA managing director Priscilla Iakopo, the recent announcement of United Airlines’ Japan-Saipan route will accommodate the MVA’s and the CNMI government’s Tourism Resumption Investment Plan, or TRIP, program for Japan.
Iakopo explained that through the TRIP Japan program, MVA issued request for proposals for airlines to service the Japan-Saipan route and United Airlines was the only airline that submitted a bid.
“We started off with TRIP Korea and the only reason why was because they were the country that was ready for travel. We wanted to respect Japan’s government in regards to starting travel, and recently we were told that a lot of the restrictions were lifted. There’s still some, but they’re working on it. But that didn’t stop us. We know that tourism is our own economic driver and we wanted to make sure that we continue. So what we did was we built a plan for TRIP—we call it TRIP Japan—so whenever Japan was ready, that was when we would implement it. So we issued out a request for proposal for any airline who would want to provide direct service from Japan to Saipan. We were thankful enough to receive one proposal, which was United Airlines. So upon extensively reviewing the proposal received, we awarded them and the first flight that will be coming in the first inaugural flight will be on Sept. 1,” she said.
“Thank you to Gov. Ralph DLG Torres for really assisting MVA, especially in regard to the funding. This is all under our TRIP program,” Iakopo added.
As for the flight schedule, Iakopo said United Airlines will be starting off with three weekly flights.
“As we look into the load factors, we will communicate with United Airlines for potential additional increases in flights. So to start, on a weekly basis, we’ll see almost 500 tourists starting September,” she said.
Iakopo said MVA is extremely excited to be welcoming back Japanese tourists.
“Having to welcome our Japan market once again is truly important because tourism was borne out of the Japanese so we value that partnership and that friendship and we definitely want to maintain that,” she said.
Iakopo explained that TRIP Japan has been in the works for some time now but, due to many factors, it took a while to launch. However, thanks to TRIP Korea, MVA has made the necessary improvements to the program and now, Iakopo said, MVA is gearing up to welcome back its Japanese partners.
“We are right on track to recovery. With the success of TRIP Korea and the travel bubble, that really showed us and taught us the things that we need to improve on as a destination and we obviously know that we cannot rely on one market. The reason why we’re starting in Sept. 1 is because, as we learned from Korea, we wanted to give our partners in Japan adequate time to sell Saipan as a destination. So with this announcement, we are working hand in hand with our partners to promote and advertise our destination,” Iakopo said.