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By Lindablue F. Romero

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (August 2, 1999 – Saipan Tribune)---Visitor arrivals, totaling 38,855, slid two percent for the month of June compared to the same month of 1998.

According to the Marianas Visitors Authority, arrivals from Japan dropped five percent, mainly due to the reduction in airline seat capacity to the CNMI.

Currently, there are 8,122 airline seats from Japan on a weekly basis, which is a 21 percent decline compared to the same time last year. This results, in part, from Northwest Airlines' change of aircraft from a B747 to a DC10. At the same time, Continental Airlines terminated its direct flights from Osaka in April 1999.

Except for Taiwan, the remaining Northeast Asian markets recorded increases during the June period.

Arrivals from Korea jumped 61 percent, as the CNMI's the second biggest market showed sustained growth.

The number of visitors from Hong Kong also showed growth, 43 percent, while arrivals from Taiwan and Mainland China registered 55 and 68 percent growth, respectively.

Based on projections by the Japan Travel Bureau, the outlook for overall Japanese summer travel is expected to register a 1.7 increase for the first time in two years, to 3.14 million, despite the ongoing recession in that country.

The jump is attributed to the following factors:

• Slight improvement in unemployment rate;

• More positive attitude toward personal consumption;

• Reduction in income and residential taxes;

• Distribution of cash vouchers to stimulate local businesses; and

• Price reduction in travel costs, including package tour prices.

The Japan-Saipan Travel Association said it was planning to ask Northwest Airlines to consider providing Nagoya-Saipan direct service to increase visitor arrivals and help the ailing tourism economy.

Tour operators on the island are hoping to convince Northwest Airlines to provide at least two to three direct flights a week from Nagoya to Saipan, according to Iwao Sakai, President of JSTA.

Currently, Japan Airlines has been providing charter flights from Osaka, Nagoya and Fukuoka.

Sakai said he expects visitor arrivals from Japan to increase this month because of the summer vacation in Japan.

JAL is planning to provide more charter flights next month.

Earlier, JSTA asked JAL to provide Nagoya-Saipan direct service. Likewise, the Hotel Association of Northern Mariana Islands sent a letter to JAL hoping to convince the airline to begin a Nagoya-Saipan-Guam or Nagoya-Saipan flight at least three times a week to help boost visitor arrivals in the CNMI.

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

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