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By Lindablue F. Romero

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (July 7, 1999 - Saipan Tribune)---Buoyed by the positive results of its additional flights, Japan Airlines has decided to operate 10 charter flights in July and August from the cities of Osaka, Nagoya and Fukuoka in a move to boost visitor arrivals in the CNMI.

Despite the absence of charter flights last month, JAL ferried a total of 16,692 Japanese tourists, which resulted in a 113 percent jump in the number of travelers over the same period last year. The June 1999 total included 10,824 passengers from Tokyo and 5,868 from Osaka.

JAL's share of the total number of tourists arriving in the CNMI from Japan during January-May 1999 was over 50 percent.

From June 21-22, 1999, Yukiharu Enomoto, JAL District Manager, and Kaishun Nishigaya, Sales Manager, visited JAL's sales office in Osaka, Nagoya and Fukuoka where they discussed the operation of more charter flights. They were joined by MVA Managing Director Perry Tenorio, Board Chairman Dave M. Sablan, Marketing Director Norman Berg and Lt. Gov. Jesus R. Sablan. During the trip, MVA presented its promotional plans to the airline's sales personnel in those cities.

Since last year, JAL has been continuing to assist the Commonwealth in its promotional campaign in order to recapture its lost market share in Japan.

Worried about the fate of its huge investment on the island, JAL had been offering charter flights and discounted rates to lure more visitors to the islands. The airline invested more than $150 million during the past 15 years for such projects as La Fiesta San Roque Shopping Plaza, Hotel Nikko Saipan and Tropical Laundry & Linen Services.

At the same time, JAL produced an in-flight promotional video of the Northern Marianas, which will be shown for a year on its domestic and international flights as part of its commitment to save CNMI's sagging tourism economy. This is considered a major exposure for the islands in Japan, the Commonwealth's main market, considering the local tourism office's limited budget for promotion.

Although visitor arrival records show that the numbers are climbing, some tourism officials said it would be misleading to conclude that the islands' tourism economy is already on its way to recovery.

The Marianas Visitors Authority has been trying to convince other airlines servicing the CNMI to increase seat capacity after Continental Micronesia decided to cut back its direct flights to from key cities in Japan.

For additional reports from The Saipan Tribune, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT

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