Visitor arrivals to the Northern Mariana Islands rose 6 percent in October 2016 compared to October 2015.
According to the Marianas Visitors Authority, arrivals to the islands of Saipan, Tinian, and Rota registered 41,729 visitors in October 2016, compared to 35,549 visitors in October 2015.
Arrivals from Korea began the new fiscal year with another strong month, jumping 42 percent in October to 20,330 visitors. This is due to an increase in the number of flights, including low-cost carrier Eastar’s daily Incheon-Saipan flight launched in October 2016 and Asiana Airline’s Incheon-Saipan daily charter flights also begun in October 2016 and continuing to Feb. 28, 2017. Also, beginning on Dec. 23, T’way is planning to operate an Incheon-Saipan daily flight and Jeju Air will inaugurate a four-times weekly Busan-Saipan flight, so visitor arrivals from Korea are projected to remain high.
Arrivals from China fell 10 percent compared to October 2015 to 15,331 visitors, although under the current economic environment, Chinese outbound tourism remains strong. Aggressive competition from other destinations and a lack of hotel room availability are major factors that have contributed to this slight decline. Concerns have been raised about capacity and infrastructure issues at the Saipan International Airport, but the MVA has been quick to counter these concerns with positive news about the destination itself. Based on annual data from online travel company Tuniu, Saipan was ranked No. 1 in the Top 10 Most Favorite Island Destinations in 2015. In 2016, Saipan moved down a few ranks to No. 6. Overall, the outlook remains positive for the China market.
Arrivals from Japan fell 27 percent to 3,591 visitors in October as a result of Delta Air Lines’ suspension of their Narita-Saipan evening daily flight on Oct. 24, 2015. The reduction was part of Delta’s flight cutbacks to beach resorts including Hawaii and Guam from Osaka and Nagoya markets. The MVA’s newly appointed representative office in Japan has been meeting with key stakeholders including travel agents and several airlines to increase demand for travel to the Northern Marianas. Negotiations with airlines to operate charter flights from secondary cities are ongoing.
South Korea’s political uncertainties over an unfolding influence-peddling scandal could increase downside risks to the country’s economic growth, a Citigroup report said. The global investment bank said the scandal involving President Park Geun-hye could shrink consumer sentiment, which in turn could further slow economic growth in the fourth quarter. The report was released by the Korea Center for International Finance. Citigroup also noted the political uncertainties could have limited influence on the country’s financial markets, noting major political issues in the past, including the 2004 impeachment of then liberal president Roh Moo-hyun, had no significant impact on financial markets.
Under the strong leadership of the Chinese Party Central Committee and the State Council, the economy is continuing to focus on public entrepreneurship, with the outbound tourism sector being strongly supported with more flexibility across the board from local authorities. Issuing of passports to Chinese citizens is becoming increasingly convenient and a healthy economy with a stable personal income stream and higher spending levels among younger, affluent individuals both bode well for the overseas travel industry in China in general and the NMI’s tourism arrival and average spending patterns in specific. Throughout 2016 and 2017, the Chinese government is not expected to curb overseas travel or overseas tourism-industry investment.
On Sept. 21, 2016, the Bank of Japan announced a “comprehensive assessment” of its quantitative and qualitative monetary easing policy, concluding that the decline in real interest rates over the three years since QQE was introduced in 2013 has lifted the Japanese economy out of deflation. The monthly average rate of the U.S. dollar to Japanese yen exchange in October 2016 was at 103.74, up from 102.03 in September. (MVA)