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By Nick Legasp

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (July 1, 1998 - CNMI News On-Line)--- Korean tourists to the Northern Marianas numbered 2,224 last May, reflecting an 84 percent drop from 13,527 visitors from that country in May 1997.

South Korea, which was the CNMI's second biggest and fastest growing tourist market until last year, has dropped to third place as the tourist industry continued to suffer from the economic slowdown in Asia.

Japan, which is still the biggest source of tourists for the CNMI, accounted for 31,985 visitors last May, 18 percent less than Japanese visitors in May 1997.

Statistics released by the Marianas Visitors Bureau on Monday showed 41,328 visitor arrivals last May, down 33 percent from the same month last year.

Total visitor arrivals during the first eight months of fiscal year 1998 is 26 percent lower at 365,293 compared to 490,512 last fiscal year.

With four months remaining in the current fiscal year, the number of visitors to the CNMI is still about half the 726,690 tourists that came here during fiscal year 1997.

MVB managing director Anicia Q. Tomokane cited as encouraging news the 56 percent increase in visitor arrivals from Hong Kong to Tinian, mainly because of the opening of the Tinian Dynasty Hotel and Casino on the island.

In terms of numbers, however, the 378 visitors from Hong Kong last May were too few to affect the current decline in the tourism industry.


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