CNMI TARGETS U.S., EUROPE TRAVEL MARKETS IN WAKE OF SARS

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SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, ) - With the plight of tourism
still bleak at April's end, the Marianas Visitors Authority yesterday disclosed
plans to strengthen markets on the U.S. mainland and Europe as Chinese arrivals
continue to be seriously affected by the suspension of flights from China to the
CNMI.

MVA chairman Dave Sablan said that arrivals from China, which
used to be the Commonwealth's surging market before the outbreak of SARS, has
practically zero arrivals this month.

"We have no one coming from China except for U.S.
citizens," Sablan said. "There is nothing we can do but comply with
our government."

The CNMI government has decided to indefinitely suspend China
Southern Air's flights from China to Tinian as a precautionary measure to
prevent the entry of SARS into the Commonwealth.

Sablan also said the impact on international travel by the
U.S.-led war against Iraq is expected to take its toll on April's total visitor
arrivals, which could be worse than last month's figures.

Visitor entry to the CNMI in March posted a 4.39-percent decline
compared to figures of the same period last year, as the Northern Marianas'
major tourism market-Japan-went down for the first time after several months.
The MVA recorded Japanese arrivals last month at 25,920, which was 7 percent
lower than last year's 27,897 for the same period.

"We can only hope that SARS will go away," Sablan
said. Once the SARS scare is over, the MVA chairman expressed optimism that the
CNMI's tourism would get back to its feet.

Sablan cited the removal of Vietnam in the World Health
Organization's SARS list of affected countries. Although there were reported
cases in that Asian country, authorities there managed to control the spread of
the virus.

Hong Kong has yet to be removed from the list, but Sablan
expressed optimism that it would be cleared soon.

"In months to come, we're taking a look at other
areas," the MVA chairman disclosed. He specifically mentioned the U.S.
mainland and Europe.

Among the European countries being eyed by MVA is Germany, which
occupied the Northern Marianas in the early 1900s. Like Japan, he said Germany
has strong historical ties with the CNMI.

He further described Germans as "good travelers,"
staying for as long as a month to six months.

In the U.S., Sablan said MVA is eyeing diving groups and
businessmen as potential visitors. The U.S. Department of Commerce would also
assist in the CNMI's effort to promote the islands as a tourist destination.

In related news, former Sen. Edward Maratita joined the MVA as
the agency's newest board member. Sablan swore him in before yesterday's board
meeting was held.

Maratita was confirmed to his seat early this month.

April 30, 2003

Saipan Tribune: www.saipantribune.com 

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