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By Giff Johnson

MAJURO, Marshall Islands (Marianas Variety, June 14) - Air Nauru is aiming to lure Australian tourists to the Marshall Islands as part of its new air service linking Brisbane with four central Pacific islands and Fiji beginning July.

"Not many Australians know about the Marshall Islands," said Air Nauru general manager John Goulding in Majuro Friday. The Melbourne-based Goulding is wrapping up a four-day visit to the Marshall Islands this week in preparation for launching the new air service that will provide weekly flights connecting Brisbane with Honiara in the Solomon Islands, Nauru, Majuro in the Marshall Islands, Tarawa, Kiribati and Nadi, Fiji.

To entice travelers, Air Nauru is offering low introductory air fares of $495 round trip Majuro-Brisbane and $440 round trip Majuro-Fiji through September 3.

"This Air Nauru flight is a turning point for tourism in the Marshall Islands," said Jerry Kramer, a local businessman whose company Pacific International Inc. is handling marketing and promotions for Air Nauru. "The equator is like a brick wall for travel. If you want to travel north-south, you have to fly east or west first. Now, Air Nauru will connect the rest of the world to the South Pacific."

Goulding spent four days in Majuro this week to meet with business, government and tourism officials. "Air Nauru’s flight will make the Marshall Islands very accessible to Australians," he said. "We need to understand from the tourism authority and the visitor industry in Majuro how they want us to promote the Marshall Islands."

He said that the airline, although government-owned, is independently operated and is a "financially viable airline." The Nauru government is facing massive economic problems that have resulted in many of its overseas assets — including office buildings and hotels — being repossessed by banks for failure to make required loan payments.

Goulding said Air Nauru relies on its own financial ability, not on subsidies from the government.

In addition to flying its own routes, Air Nauru flies a schedule for SolAir, the Solomon Islands airline. "There’s a feeling among the small islands of working together (for airline service)," he said. "If we can’t work cooperatively, air service in the region won’t happen."

Goulding said that the new air route for Majuro was cooperating with Air Marshall Islands, which has been servicing the Majuro-Tarawa route with a small commuter plane. With Air Nauru picking up the route, "it releases Air Marshall Islands planes for domestic service while we provide jet service to Tarawa," Goulding said. Air Nauru is using a Boeing 737-400 jet. "We’re good at helping other people," he said.

June 15, 2004

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