Since 1991, Teruhito Tsuji and his mother, Rieko, have been frequent visitors to Saipan and have witnessed the rise and ebb of the Japanese tourist market on the island.
From being the No. 1 tourist market of the Commonwealth in the 1990s and early 2000s, Japan now places a distant third from tourists from China and Korea.
The Tsujis, however, have remained steadfast in their 26-year love affair with the islands and have enjoyed its azure waters, flame tree-lined roads, and friendly people more than 30 times during that span.
Whenever they’re in the 670, Teruhito and Rieko almost always find themselves in the comfortable confines of the Aqua Resort Club, whose staff treats them close to royalty since they discovered this tropical paradise in the North Pacific close to three decades ago.
“We’ve really fallen in love with Saipan. The friendly staff of Aqua Resort Club is like family to us and we always love coming back here for vacation. They really take good care of us,” said Teruhito.
Among the activities the Tsujis take part in on Saipan include sightseeing, shopping, food-tripping, and their favorite, trolling. In fact, just last week, the Tsujis rented a speedboat and went trolling near Tinian where they caught plenty of fish.
Aqua Resort F&B supervisor Joel Subang said the Tsujis have been loyal customers of the Achugao hotel since Day 1 and are sort of ambassadors of Saipan at a time when tourists arrivals from Japan are waning.
“They are good. They treat us like family. They always choose Aqua Resort because of our friendly staff service and because they feel that ARC is their home,” said Subang.
Aside from Saipan, Teruhito and Rieko have also visited Los Angeles and Las Vegas in the U.S., Palau and Guam in Micronesia, the Philippines and Vietnam in Southeast Asia, and China and Korea in East Asia, but they said nothing compares to the CNMI, which they consider their second home.
Data from the Marianas Visitors Authority pointed out that visitor arrivals from Japan totaled just 62,120 in 2016. That is a precipitous drop from the 450,190 who visited the islands in 1997, which was the peak of Japanese arrivals to the CNMI.
Despite the downward trend, MVA is not losing hope; it still considers Japan one of the pillars of tourism in the CNMI.
The CNMI’s tourism body argues that Japan remains the third largest economy in the world. It is also only three hours away by plane from the CNMI and Japanese tourists could enter the CNMI visa-free. (Saipan Tribune)