JAPAN AIRLINES MAY LOWER SAIPAN FARES TO ATTRACT VISITORS

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By Cookie B. Micaller

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (November 4, 1998 - Saipan Tribune)---Japan Airlines has petitioned the Tokyo government to allow the nation's flag carrier to reduce by two percent the airfare between Japan and Saipan to attract more passengers and give a lift to CNMI's teetering tourism industry, officials said yesterday.

The airline company's request is part of a package of assistance JAL has drawn up to help the half-a-billion-dollar-a-year tourism business here, which has been experiencing its worst slump in years since late 1997 as a result of the Asian-wide financial strife.

The petition for a reduction in plane fare was filed last month, according to JAL officials. There is no decision yet from the Japanese government whether to grant the request.

During the pre-launching of the "Visit the Marianas '99" program last March in Japan, Gov. Pedro P. Tenorio made a personal pitch to airline executives to assist the Northern Marianas in the wake of continuos drop in tourist arrivals.

Japanese tourists, who traditionally comprise the bulk of CNMI's visitors, have canceled travel plans due to economic recession in Japan, and a number of Asian countries hardly hit by the currency crisis have reduced their package tours to get a slice of the shrinking market.

Because of the downturn in the tourism-led economy and tough competition in the industry, JAL has unveiled marketing promotions to sell the Northern Marianas as a tourist destination among Japanese travelers in line with the local tourism campaign.

For the entire month of December, JAL will provide six special flights between Nagoya and Saipan that are expected to bring in close to 1,300 tourists to the islands for the holidays. The Nagoya-Saipan flight was dropped by Continental Micronesia from its route service due to declining passenger hauls.

JAL officials are optimistic Japanese travelers will be lured into visiting the islands for the holiday season since the promotions are being handled by two of Nagoya's biggest tour companies - Kinki and Meitetsu Tours.

Japan's flag carrier is scheduled to launch the "JAL Saipan Campaign" beginning January 3, 1999, which is envisioned to attract 12,000 visitors.

The three-month promo will cost $210,000 and will involve bags and camera give-aways to travelers. Eight participating wholesalers will distribute 800,000 copies of brochures to market CNMI in Japan.

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

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