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By Cookie B. Micaller

TINIAN, Northern Mariana Islands (April 26, 1998)---The Tinian Dynasty Hotel and Casino is currently negotiating with airline companies the possibility of providing direct flights between Tinian and key Asian cities and increasing air service from Guam to the island municipality, its Chairman said.

Michael Kwan said in an interview that talks are underway with Continental Micronesia to fly directly to Tinian from at least nine major destinations in Asia to lure tourists and high-rollers into the hotel and casino resort, which opened its doors to the public Saturday.

Continental, the region's main air carrier, has cut down its flight service in the Asia Pacific region due to a downtrend in the tourism industry spawned by the region-wide currency crisis.

Airline officials last month warned commonwealth officials that they might further reduce service to Saipan if tourist arrivals continue to slide down in order to save the company some $2 million in monthly losses.

The present condition of the 50-year-old West Tinian Airport dulls the lure of the island to airline companies because the runway can only accommodate small aircraft. Estimates placed the expansion of the runway into a taxiway between $20 million to $25 million and the construction of a new terminal building with a jetway at $24 million.

"Our hope is within 18 months we will have a runway," Kwan said, as he warned that less tourism would translate to "less income, less tax."

According to the Tinian Dynasty top executive, they are expecting to close a deal with a Hawaii-based airline in June to service Guam and Tinian. The agreement will involve two Raytheon aircraft which will be used exclusively by the clients of the island resort and casino.

Despite the economic troubles in the region, Kwan said Tinian Dynasty is confident it could attract visitors and earn very good returns in the first year of its operations. "I am very aware of the economic crisis...I believe that it's the service that will attract the people."

He said the company has a very strong marketing team with strong connection in the Asian market which include a former marketing manager of Australia's Grand Casino.

Marketing offices will be opened in Taiwan, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, South Korea, China and Japan, the company's target for tourists and high-rollers, to market not only the hotel and casino but the whole island as well.

But the financial strife that hit the once vibrant economies of Asia has slowed down the tourism industry in the Northern Marianas with the number of visitor arrivals plunging to a record low of 27 percent as of February.

Undaunted by the faltering tourist numbers, Kwan said the proximity of Tinian to Asian cities, visa-free entry, low crime rate, decent entertainment and world class facilities would lure clients to come to the 400-room hotel and casino.

Tinian Dynasty opened to the public Saturday, making available the casino, 100 rooms and a Chinese restaurant.

The $200 million investment will begin full operations in six to eight weeks, according to Kwan.


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