MAJURO, Marshall Islands (Marianas Variety, Jan. 6) - The number of holiday visitors to the Marshall Islands in 2002 is expected to be down about 8 percent, and the overall visitor count down four percent compared to 2001, Marshall Islands Visitors Authority general manager Mark Stege said Wednesday.

"It’s mainly because of Sept. 11 and the downturn in the United States and Japan economies," Stege said.

The fledgling Marshall Islands visitor industry counts its visitors in the hundreds, not tens of thousands.

In 2000, the Marshall Islands recorded 1,323 holiday visitors. Even with the events of Sept. 11 in 2001, this central Pacific nation saw a rise to 1,483 in 2001, largely on the strength of the first eight months of the year. Although final statistics are not yet in for 2002, the Marshall Islands had seen 1,128 holiday visitors through September and the visitors authority was anticipating about 1,360 for the year.

The largest group of holiday visitors is scuba divers, with an increasing number coming from Japan. Of the 1,483 tourists in 2001, 929 were divers, Stege said.

"This is a big indication that diving in the Marshall Islands is good and people are starting to know about it," Stege said, adding that the Marshall Islands focus on promotion to the relatively small international dive market has begun to produce results.

January 6, 2003

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