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By Lindablue F. Romero

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (August 27, 1998 - Saipan Tribune)---The Marianas Visitors Authority yesterday reported a 32 percent decline in tourist arrivals or a total of 42,808 for the month of July compared to the same month last year as Japan, the CNMI's main market, continues to experience a severe economic crisis.

With the continuous downturn in visitor arrivals, Marianas Visitors Authority (MVA) board chairman Dave M. Sablan and managing director Perry John Tenorio are set to leave for Japan next month to meet with key leaders in the travel industry there before the official launching of Visit the Marianas '99 campaign at the end of September.

Norman Berg, marketing director of MVA, gave the assurance that the agency is working hard to find creative solutions to arrest the downturn in arrivals. He said members of the steering committee of Visit the Marianas '99 campaign are finalizing the list of activities to be included in the promotion.

Aside from this, the board has to make a decision on the proposed hiring of an advertising firm in Japan that will assist MVA in getting back its market share.

For several months now, high-end boutiques have been feeling the pinch of the Asian recession as Japanese tourists have drastically cut down on their spending habits. A number of owners of luxury shops are planning to close down their businesses since their earnings are not even enough to cover the salaries of their employees and payment for space rentals.

With the exchange rate of 139 yen to $1 in July, tourists from Japan, the world's second biggest economy, have remained scarce, with a 19 percent decline in arrivals for the past two months.

However, visitors from the United States, including Guam, jumped six percent. Tourists from Hong Kong declined only by one percent.

Furthermore, arrivals from Korea, the second biggest market of Northern Marianas, have remained 84 percent down for the last three months.

Taiwan, a sub-market which the MVA wants to develop, has also suffered, with a 56 percent plunge in visitor arrivals. This is expected to improve when Continental Micronesia pushes through with its plan to offer a direct Taipei-Tinian flight to save the cash strapped Tinian Dynasty Hotel & Casino.

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