With the commencement of direct flights between Japan and the Northern Marianas yesterday, the Marianas Visitors Authority, United Airlines, and other travel partners are celebrating the inaugural flight with ceremonies in Tokyo, Japan.
A reception was held last Wednesday, Aug. 31, at ANA Intercontinental Hotel Tokyo with 40 travel trade partners, including Deputy Senior Commercial Officer Steve Knode of the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo and other representatives of the U.S. Embassy and the Japan Association of Travel Agents (JATA). The event also included representatives of consumer and travel trade media outlets.
“We have been waiting a long time to welcome back our friends from Japan on direct flights to The Marianas, and tomorrow, it will finally be possible,” said MVA board chair Viola Alepuyo to attendees. “The restart of flights was made possible with the leadership of the Honorable Governor Ralph Deleon Guerrero Torres; the persistence of our Japan Tourism Investment Resumption Plan (TRIP) chairman, Mr. Ivan Quichocho; the dedication of the Japan TRIP members led by Mr. Masaru Sunaga; and the hard working management and staff of the Marianas Visitors Authority.”
United Airlines and the MVA will also hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Tokyo-Narita International Airport at the departure gate before the first flight at 9:25pm last night.
“Our Marianas starlit nights and blue skies during the day, clear ocean, friendly people, and relaxing way of life – passengers on tonight’s flight will soon experience all of that for themselves,” said MVA managing director Priscilla M. Iakopo. “In the meantime, the MVA is ramping up ongoing promotions with a series of new partnerships and product offerings to entice Japanese visitors.”
United Airlines will fly three weekly flights departing Tokyo-Narita International Airport at 9:25pm on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays and arriving in Saipan one day later at 2am. Flights from Saipan will depart on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 7am and arrive in Narita at 9:35am.
The airline is eligible for financial incentives for the flights under the TRIP program. The program will continue for an initial six months with an option to renew for an additional six months as the MVA and tourism partners work to stabilize the Japan market. As direct flights with Japan have been infrequent for most of the last four years, the MVA is working on rebuilding public awareness of the Marianas as a tourist destination, especially among the younger generation.
The MVA’s new Marianacation promotion in Japan launched earlier this year has been expanded to further promote the destination’s natural beauty with an Air-Sea-Land package, offering free skydiving, SCUBA diving, or golf for anyone booking a flight from Japan to Saipan. In addition, travel agents will receive a 10,000 yen incentive for all bookings.
“The cleanliness and beauty of The Marianas is superior to many competing destinations, and that’s what we’re leveraging with the Air-Sea-Land promotion,” said TRIP chair Ivan Quichocho. “Our golf courses, scuba diving, and flora and fauna on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota are incredible, and we are inviting visitors to experience all this with a number of travel trade promotions and coops.”
Expedia began an online campaign promoting The Marianas yesterday, Sept. 1. Business Development manager Maho Ueda of Expedia Northeast Asia shared that the MVA promotional package is attractive and they expect it to generate a buzz among potential visitors. A recent survey of Expedia users indicates that tourists are more interested in destinations that offer pristine nature where they can also experience the local culture of the destination. Expedia has also pledged to share platform data with the MVA for strategic planning by the tourism office.
Online tourism promotion company Newt, whose local operator in The Marianas is Tasi Tours, has also signed on with other major travel agencies to sell The Marianas. Business Development Leader Azusa Sugoh said the company will feature and market The Marianas on their online app. (PR)