‘We will never give up on the Japan market’

Japanese passengers board Delta Air Lines’ Narita-Saipan route last Nov. 13, 2017. A stewardess said the passengers were a mix of Japanese and U.S. citizens, where the former was the majority. It is the CNMI government’s hope to revitalize the Japanese market in 2018. (Bea Cabrera)

The Japan tourism market represents over $300 million in economic impact to the CNMI, and making sure that the country will remain a major source market for the CNMI is a priority for the Marianas.

“I cannot imagine losing that much money in our economy,” said Marianas Visitors Authority managing director Chris Concepcion. “Needless to say, we will never give up on the Japan market. It is our oldest and closest source market to the CNMI.”

That commitment to Japan was further reinforced when Gov. Ralph DLG Torres and Concepcion personally went to Tokyo last week to meet with Delta Air Lines executives to seal the reciprocity of commitment on both sides—continuous flights of Delta in their Narita-Saipan route and for the CNMI government to provide additional resources and support to Delta.

This commitment to Delta Air, among other marketing efforts in Japan by MVA, aims to stir the sluggish Japanese market to consider the CNMI once more as a preferred destination.

“The commitment of Delta to the CNMI means the Japan market will remain a major source market for the CNMI. It means the tourism industry can breath a sigh of relief that Delta’s plans to eliminate Guam from their network does not affect the CNMI,” said Concepcion.

At the MVA meeting last Nov. 9 at the Royal Taga Hall of the Saipan Word Resort, Access Inc., the MVA’s marketing arm in Japan, said that “branding enhancement” of the CNMI will be its priority in Japan.

“Japan used to be the No. 1 tourists in the CNMI. The market condition changed…[and] rebranding the Marianas for 2018 is in the pipeline,” said Access Inc. president Takashi Ichikura.

This includes hiring professional photographer Junji Takasago to take photos of the tourist sights on the three islands, media exposure through billboards put up in strategic locations such as the Shimbashi station in Tokyo, Japan Railway and subways, newspaper advertisements, online media platform, and new guidebooks.

He blamed the decline in the Japanese market on many factors such as flight suspensions that led to accessibility issues, the emergence of new niche destinations in Southeast Asia, superior marketing competitions against Taiwan and Hong Kong, price discount war among travel agencies, the North Korea missile threat, and airline yield management.

Despite these challenges, Concepcion said that MVA is exploiting all available marketing tools.

“When Delta announced their suspension of Guam flights effective January 2018 while keeping Saipan and Palau flights intact, it sent a signal to the market that Saipan was obviously performing better for them financially. The potential for growth and future expansion are there should market conditions improve,” Concepcion said.

“Our marketing strategies for Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya are different. Tokyo is the capital, the center of government, a financial powerhouse and the most populated metropolitan area in the world. Osaka is more laid back, famous for their food, and is the second largest city in Japan. And Nagoya is the third largest city, the headquarters of Toyota, famous for their food as well. So each city offers different opportunities for the MVA to tap into,” Concepcion added.

Airlift and rebranding the CNMI for the Japanese market are on the table and MVA seeks the community for support.

“It’s highly critical that we continue our rebranding efforts, revitalize the image of the Marianas in Japan, and build that into a positive cycle that results in more Japanese eager to visit Rota, Tinian, and Saipan,” Concepcion said,

“We seek community support with all our efforts to clean up our islands, improve our hotel properties, improve our infrastructure, promote local entrepreneurism so locals benefit from the tourism industry, be kind to our visitors, and clean up after yourselves. I think many of us forget what it’s like to be a tourist in a foreign country,” Concepcion added.

Bea Cabrera Cabrera
Bea Cabrera, who holds a law degree, also has a bachelor’s degree in mass communications. She has been exposed to multiple aspects of mass media, doing sales, marketing, copywriting, and photography.

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