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By Marian A. Maraya Staff Reporter

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (June 1, 2001 Saipan Tribune)---Regional tourism experts yesterday encouraged players in the local travel industry to invest in studies that will identify the markets the Northern Marianas should pursue aggressively.

Research shared by a top brass Japan Travel Bureau official during yesterday’s CNMI 2001 Tourism Summit revealed that data on Japanese travelers’ characteristics proved very useful in the travel industry’s promotional efforts.

Yoshio Koteda, JTB Corp. General Manager for International Relations, Planning and Marketing, quoted studies detailing Japan’s middle-aged and elderly citizens as the country's most ardent travelers.

"While Japan’s travel industry as a whole suffered in 1998 and 1999, certain travel agencies did rather well. These were the ones that aimed at this age group.

"Motivated by success of these specialized agencies, most of our major tour operators have started to focus more on this age group, offering products tailored to senior travelers," Mr. Koteda’s presentation on Japan's Outbound Travel revealed.

In Guam, DFS President Gerald Perez said the island’s tourism arm also employed market studies, which were used as the basis for creating the "Pleasure Island."

"We conducted a focus survey and tried to study what it was that this particular market wants," Mr. Perez shared with the forum’s audience at the Diamond Hotel yesterday.

But Mr. Koteda warned that market segments tend to change every year, based on Japan’s experience.

However, he reiterated that Japanese individuals aged 50 and older and women in their 30s continue to comprise the bulk of Japan's traveling block.

The travel expert also said that his country’s travel industry is keeping a close eye on these markets, citing their numbers are only expected to further increase.

Mr. Koteda also noted that a high percentage of travelers in the two market segments use prearranged package tours.

Further, they like value added travel products and are less picky about departure dates.

Participants in yesterday’s tourism summit also heard from Northwest Airlines Manager Masaaki Ito, who delivered a presentation on "Destination Comparison."

The airline official said that the completion of Narita’s second runway is expected to expand Japan’s tourism.

According to Mr. Ito, the airport’s new facility, which will be unveiled in May 2002, is anticipated to provide more choices of destination for travelers and possibly increase interest in traveling to the Northern Marianas.

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

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