As projected by the Marianas Visitors Authority, total visitor arrivals to the Marianas for the fiscal year are continuing to show a slight dip compared to the same period last year at 507,116 visitors, which is 6 percent off last year’s mark.
Visitor arrivals fell 19 percent in July 2018 compared to July 2017. Arrivals to the islands of Saipan, Tinian, and Rota registered 48,156 visitors in July 2018, compared to 59,483 visitors received in July 2017.
Arrivals from Korea dropped 21.7 percent to 23,454 visitors, yet the country continues to retain its position as the top performing source market. The decline is largely due to fewer flights than in July 2017 from both Seoul-Incheon and Busan.
T’way Air continued its daily schedule that it resumed in June and has also announced plans to operate additional charter flights with a combined 1,500-plus seats from Sept. 21-29 during Chuseok, the Korean Thanksgiving holiday week. Also, Jeju Air launched daily charter flights from Seoul-Incheon from Aug. 3 until Sep. 2.
Arrivals from China dropped 6.6 percent compared to July 2017 to 21,672 visitors, due in part to fewer seasonal flights this summer compared to last July. While earthquakes and other disasters in competing tropical destinations have sparked a social media wildfire about the danger of unsafe travel, the Marianas retains its reputation as a safe, convenient and beautiful island destination. In the long term, The Marianas will continue to see steady arrivals from China for the months to come.
Arrivals from Japan dropped 80 percent lower than June 2017 to 693 visitors. The decline is attributed to the pullout of direct daily flights by Delta Air Lines in early May 2018 and the sharp reduction of daily flights from Saipan to Guam for Japanese passengers arriving on United Airlines.
The first of 29 summer charter flights from Narita arrived on July 14 with additional flights planned for August. Daily flights from Japan will be launched by Skymark Airlines in the winter season. Meanwhile, the MVA is aggressively promoting travel to Saipan from Japan via Seoul with enhanced marketing and new travel packages offered by major travel agencies JTB and H.I.S.
“July was another challenging month for arrivals, with only one flight from Japan, the settling of flights from Korea after a period of fierce competition among airlines, and relatively fewer summer charter flights from China this year,” said MVA managing director Christopher A. Concepcion. “Looking ahead, we will have 28 more charter flights from Japan in August and regular flight service from that country again within several months. Although arrivals are 6 percent lower so far this year, the market is optimistic for an eventual pick up within a few months and we continue our negotiations to launch new direct flights from Taiwan, as well. We’ve heard that some of our tourism partners are taking advantage of this softer period to repair and refurbish their properties. We encourage everyone to take advantage of this window of opportunity to improve our product in the Marianas as private sector, government, and community after several years of record-breaking growth.
“The tourism industry is inherently cyclical with peaks and valleys expected periodically. The future remains bright for the Marianas long term.”
As the Marianas’ top source market, South Korea also remains Asia’s fourth largest economy. However, a strengthening U.S. dollar and a weakening Koreans won will contribute to pushing up import prices, according to a report by the central bank in late July. The average USD/won exchange rate in July was 1122.78 won, a slight increase from the previous rate of 1075.14 won in June.
In the first half of 2018, the number of Chinese outbound tourists increased significantly, reflecting an increase of 14.1 percent over the same period in 2017.
Based on preliminary figures, Japanese overseas travelers were up 6.4 percent year on year, reaching 1,421,600 in June 2018. (MVA)