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SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (September 3, 2002 - Saipan Tribune/PINA Nius Online)---Buoyed by the success of his Tokyo trip last week, Northern Marianas Governor Juan Babauta is proposing to send monthly missions to Japan.

The aim is to make regular follow-ups on the commitments that he has obtained in getting more tourists and investors from Japan.

Describing the trip as arguably the most successful he has taken in his career as an elected official, Babauta said a delegation, "both government and private," should go to Japan regularly.

The Governor also wants to propose a complete reorganization of the Marianas Visitors Authority to find better ways of maximizing its capabilities in bringing in more Japanese tourists.

Babauta said there are lots of people in key offices in the Japanese government who are willing to help.

"All that we need to do is extend a little courtesy, go visit them and ask for their help," he said. "That's all they want. They don't want anything else."

Japan has historic links with the Northern Marianas, having governed the islands from 1914 to 1944.

Babauta said that after meeting with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and several members of the Japan Diet (legislature), he sees great opportunities for the Northern Marianas.

"For many, many years, the bulk of our tourists have come from Japan," he said.

"In fact, right now, 80 percent of all the tourists over the last 20 years have come from Japan and, from what I've seen in Japan, we have not even scratched the surface. That is where our bread and butter is."

The Governor conceded that the Northern Marianas must also aggressively pursue the tourism markets in China and South Korea.

"But we should not forget that Japan has brought the tourism economy here," he said.

Babauta's visit followed a program aired in July by NHK, Japan’s largest television network. It depicted Saipan as having dirty shorelines, unsafe beaches, and thieves preying on tourists.

The Governor said after discussions with Japanese government officials they had rated the Northern Marianas one of the safer places to visit.

The Governor said the Japanese officials had also raised some concerns, particularly over prostitution.

Saipan’s beaches should also be cleaned up, he added.

Also discussed were issues such as: lack of flights from Saipan to neighboring Tinian and Rota; lack of road signs in Japanese; having Japanese doctors who could attend to Japanese tourists; and development of twin city relationships.

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

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