CNMI GOVERNOR TENORIO CONSIDERS OPENING TOURISM TO CHINA

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By Benhur C. Saladores

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (August 18, 1998 - Saipan Tribune)--- Governor Pedro (Pete) P. Tenorio said yesterday the government will pursue its goal to expand the contracting tourist market of the Northern Marianas, vowing to look into a proposal to tap millions of travelers from mainland China.

The local chief executive said he will discuss with officials of the Marianas Visitors Authority the recommendation to initiate a formal request to Beijing to include the CNMI in the list of destinations that Chinese nationals can visit.

"I would like to review that and look further to try to find what we should do," Tenorio told reporters in an interview.

MVA Chairman David M. Sablan reiterated an earlier proposal calling on the CNMI government to make representation with the People's Republic of China on possible listing of the islands as one of tourist destinations for the country's huge travel market.

The move is underscored by the alarming drop in visitor arrivals to the NMI in recent months largely due to the economic crisis sweeping across East Asia and Japan, the CNMI's prime source of tourists.

In a bid to stir the slumping tourism-driven economy of the islands, the current administration has thrown its support behind a privately initiated campaign in Japan aimed at attracting Japanese tourists into the NMI.

While it has pledged to continue promotion in recession-deep Japan, MVA hopes to broaden the local tourist market to include other Asian countries, such as China which has been spared from the worst regional currency crisis in years.

"We are looking at tapping other tourist markets to visit the CNMI," Tenorio explained, " and MVA feels that tourists from China would like to visit the CNMI."

There are more than 100 million up and coming middle-class travelers from China, whose number is expected to surge in the next few years due to its rapid economic growth.

Visitors from the communist country who are potential business investors are only allowed to come here by invitation, while Chinese with Hong Kong identification cards or British passports have been allowed to visit the island in the past few years.

According to Tenorio, he would discuss further with MVA the issues which have restricted travel by Chinese visitors to the islands. "MVA is entrusted to promote the CNMI. I will meet with them," he said.

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

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