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By John Ravelo

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, June 30) – The tourism industry in the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas sustained its upward surge in June, with the Marianas Visitors Authority recording a 77 percent growth in tourist arrivals compared with the same period last year.

A preliminary report by the MVA showed that all of the Commonwealth’s tourist market showed significant improvement to double the total arrivals. The preliminary report, though, covered only the period June 1 to 20 for both years.

At least 30,053 tourists visited the islands last month, almost double last year’s 16,911. The total tourist arrivals for the entire month of June 2003 reached 26,694.

The MVA recorded June 2002’s total arrivals at 39,708.

MVA managing director Vicky Benavente said, however, that the preliminary report would increase further beyond the 30,053 figure, once tourist arrivals from June 21 to 30 are added to the total.

The June 2004 preliminary total is the fifth consecutive month that visitor arrivals showed positive performance compared with the respective monthly periods last year.

At least 21,626 Japanese tourists visited the islands from June 1 to 20, a significant increase of 85 percent compared with the same period last year, which only had 11,712 arrivals. The preliminary June 2004 total even surpassed the entire June 2003 total of 18,318.

Benavente attributed marked improvement in tourist arrivals to pent-up travel demand caused by the travel scare brought by severe acute respiratory syndrome disease and the U.S.-led war against Iraq last year.

She also noted the improving economy of Japan, the CNMI’s premier market for tourists.

The MVA’s preliminary report showed huge increases in tourist arrivals from all markets, including Korea. Korean arrivals on June 1 to 20 registered at 3,626, up by 16 percent from 3,123 during the same period last year. Total Korean arrivals in June 2003 reached 5,200.

Arrivals from China posted a growth of 2,576 percent, with 1,124 visitors coming to the islands from June 1 to 20. During the same period last year, the MVA said only 42 tourists from China visited the islands.

Hong Kong’s 93 visitors improved the market by 272 percent from last year’s 25, while Taiwan’s 17 tourists posted a 467 percent growth from last year’s three visitors.

Benavente expressed optimism over the emergence of the China market, citing the availability of chartered flights between Saipan and China.

"We’re looking forward to a healthy summer," Benavente said, disclosing that travel bookings for July have increased.

The preliminary report also showed an increase in U.S. arrivals to 1,636 from last year’s 325, an increase of 403 percent. World War II veterans from the U.S. mainland flew to the islands to attend the commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the Battles of Saipan and Tinian. The total June 2003 arrivals from the U.S. only tallied at 531.

The number of visitors from Guam also increased, reaching 1,260 higher by 8 percent than the 1,170 posted during the same period last year. The MVA recorded total June 2003 arrivals from Guam at 1,731.

Visiting Filipinos also increased by 22 percent, with 304 tourists arriving during the June 1 to 20 period. The figure went up compared with the 250 visitors during the same period last year.

July 1, 2004

Saipan Tribune: www.saipantribune.com

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