By Liberty Dones

TINIAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, July 3) - Despite the economic downturn, Tinian Dynasty Hotel and Casino remains upbeat about its stay on the island, asking the government yesterday to grant it a land lease to increase its room capacity from 400 to nearly 1,000.

In a presentation during yesterday's meeting of the Marianas Public Lands Authority Board of Directors, Tinian Dynasty's managing director Alfred Yue said the company aims to construct a 14-storey facility in view of the arrival of more tourists-mainly from China-in the next several months.

Yue said that Tinian Dynasty's expansion plan is based on the projection of heavier tourist traffic from China as a result of the opening of the Tinian International Airport and possible inclusion of the CNMI in China's list of approved tourist destinations.

This, even as Yue expects that the CNMI government would finally lift the travel restrictions on China and allow the resumption of direct flights between Tinian and Guangzhou soon after.

The CNMI had imposed the entry ban on travelers from China in the wake of the severe acute respiratory syndrome pandemic. The Babauta administration said that, if no new SARS infections crop up, it may lift the travel ban on China by July 11.

"We hope to resume the twice a week charter flights on July 18, if not July 11," said Yue.

In a separate interview, Tinian-Commonwealth Ports Authority manager Ed Sanchez confirmed that charter flights would be arriving straight to Tinian no later than July 18.

The airport, which would be formally opened on August 4, can already accommodate international traffic.

"Before, these flights would stop on Saipan. Now, it's going to be direct to Tinian," he said, adding that the airplanes would still touch down on Saipan for refueling.

Tinian authorities are still negotiating with Mobil for a fuel station on the island.

Yue said that the twice-a-week flight schedule would eventually increase to four flights a week.

"These two will go direct. We also plan two more direct flights so we're expecting at least 600 additional tourists every week. Given that, we would not have enough room for them here," he said.

Yue projects to achieve at least a 75-percent occupancy rate for the hotel all year round after its expansion.

"Some 30 million Chinese travel every year, but they only go to approved destinations. We're seeing that the CNMI will soon be approved in the very near future. We project 250,000 Chinese tourists annually. We've got to find a place for them here," he said.

Currently, Saipan hotels have a total of 4,000 rooms, while Tinian Dynasty has 400.

During the meeting, Yue said that Dynasty is actually incurring losses in bringing in chartered flights.

"Chartered flights are very expensive. We're actually losing but we can afford it because we're counting on the casino players," he said.

Guangzhou flights to Tinian through Saipan via China Southern Airlines have been cancelled since early April due to SARS.

These flights come on Mondays and Fridays

July 3, 2003

Saipan Tribune: www.saipantribune.com 

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