MARIANAS VISITORS AUTHORITY DOESN’T SUPPORT CONTINENTAL MICRONESIA’S

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JAPAN ROUTES

By Lindablue F. Romero

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (April 20, 2000 - Saipan Tribune)---Marianas Visitors Authority Board Chair Dave M. Sablan has backed the decision of the Commonwealth Ports Authority not to endorse the application of Continental Micronesia to renew its regular flights to Sapporo and Sendai in Japan.

Continental Micronesia is seeking to renew its five weekly Saipan-Guam-Sapporo flights and daily Saipan-Guam-Sendai air transport service routes.

Continental has stated that it does not have immediate plans of resuming direct flights to Saipan from any Asian destinations.

Mr. Sablan said the CNMI should be given the chance to entice other airlines to takeover the routes abandoned by the airline.

"We must be given the chance to look at other airlines to protect our interest by endorsing a carrier that will provide Saipan direct service," he said.

CPA has sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation assailing Continental Micronesia's treatment of Saipan and Guam as co-terminals, which CNMI officials claimed has adversely affected the CNMI's tourism industry.

Continental Micronesia continues to treat Guam and Saipan as co-terminals under its application renewal to operate five weekly Sapporo and daily Sendai flights.

CPA Board Chair Roman S. Palacios and Executive Director Carlos H. Salas has told federal officials that they could not rally behind Continental's application because the carrier continues to treat Guam and Saipan as co-terminals.

Such move by the airline to incorporate the CNMI terminal and Guam as one will be very detrimental to the growth of the tourism economy on the island, according to Mr. Sablan.

Endorsing the application of Continental would mean losing the marketability of the CNMI and its option to attract other airlines to carry out direct service to Saipan, he added.

The current arrangement makes it appear that from the point of view of the U.S. and Japan, a service to either Saipan or Guam is a service to both islands.

Visitor arrivals on the island have continuously declined since the Asian crisis and the decision of Continental to terminate direct service from various destinations in Asia to Saipan has contributed to the slow recovery of the tourism economy.

Local tourism officials have expressed concern on the negative effect of Continental's move on the Japanese market, the island's main source of tourist, since visitors from Japan have complained about the long waiting period in Guam just to go to Saipan.

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

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