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By Lindablue F. Romero

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (August 11, 1998 - Saipan Tribune)---With no relief in sight for the half-a-billion dollar tourism industry on the island, the management of the Saipan Gold Beach Hotel has signed a deal with Hard Rock Café, allowing the one-year rent of 21 rooms for employees' quarters.

The 50-room hotel's occupancy rate has plunged 70 percent as a result of Asia's financial crisis, forcing management to lay-off some 14 employees, said Hyung Njin Kim, assistant general manager.

"We're happy with the Hard Rock contract because at least we're earning," said Kim. The remaining rooms, Kim said, can still accommodate a number of guests from Asia and Guam.

To attract more clients, Kim said hotel room rate has been reduced from US$ 88 to US$ 55 per night. Guests who want to stay for a month are given a special rate of US$ 600. Furthermore, Kim said the hotel's lobby will soon be converted into a convenience store.

Battered by the Asian recession, Saipan Gold Beach Hotel lost more than 70 percent of its market, just like other tourist establishments that have relied mainly on Korean visitors.

Korea, the second biggest market of the Northern Marianas, is now facing political and economic turmoil after its currency and stock markets plunged to historic lows.

Korean businessmen on the island are hoping that the CNMI government will still promote the Northern Marianas to their country despite the ongoing Asian crisis.

Officials of the Marianas Visitors Authority (MVA) have pledged to remain visible in Korea without spending so much money there, just to remain competitive with Guam.

While arrivals from Korea plunged more than 80 percent, observers noted that Guam has not been as severely battered as the Northern Marianas.

The newly appointed board of MVA will soon announce its marketing policy, which will spell out in detail how the Northern Marianas can be effectively sold as an ideal destination in the Pacific.

For additional reports from The Saipan Tribune, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Saipan Tribune.

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