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By Liberby Dones

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, Nov. 30) – The federal government has expressed concern about the entry of more Chinese tourists into the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas following China's decision to grant Approved Destination Status to the Commonwealth.

Gov. Juan N. Babauta said he discussed the issue and the CNMI's tourism industry as a whole with Department of the Interior assistant deputy secretary for insular areas David Cohen during a recent meeting in Washington D.C.

He said he and Cohen both recognize the number of challenges that the CNMI would face in implementing the program. These, he said, include ensuring that proper background security checks are completed prior to the entry of tourists into the CNMI and exercising caution in bringing in tourists that may be a liability in relation to local immigration control.

"We also agreed that this is a new market, a relatively uncharted market for the CNMI. This presents both challenges as well as great opportunities," said Babauta.

The governor earlier said that Cohen has accepted his invitation to attend the agreement signing between China and the CNMI next month. He said Cohen's presence would give the ceremony "the high profile it deserves."

Latest information from Beijing indicated that the ADS signing would take place on Dec. 21.

Authorities projected that the CNMI will benefit greatly from the China market beginning this year.

Regional economist Wali M. Osman, who now works for DOI, said in his May 2004 Update on the Economies of Guam and the CNMI Report that beyond the uncertainty surrounding the garment industry, a somewhat longer-term prospect for the CNMI looks more promising mainly because of the emergence of China as a regional tourist supplier.

Also, he said that since CNMI-bound tourists do not need U.S. visas-as they do to enter Guam-the CNMI has the advantage of receiving Chinese tourists any time.

The Pacific Asia Travel Association said Chinese spending on travel is predicted to reach $100 billion by 2008.

November 30, 2004

Saipan Tribune http://www.saipantribune.com

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