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By Gemma Q. Cassas

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Feb. 1) – The number of tourists visiting the island of Tinian has been steadily declining for three months - from October to December 2005, statistics from the Marianas Visitors Authority show.

Figures from Marianas Visitors Authority show Tinian - the third largest island in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands - received only 5,023 tourists for the month of December 2005, down by 22 percent compared to December 2004 figure of 6,410.

Like Saipan, the arrival rates in Tinian were negatively affected by the pullout of Japan Airlines in October 2005.

When Japan Airlines pulled out of the Saipan route, the arrival rate for Tinian plunged by 10 percent to only 5,023.

Japanese visitors to the island decreased by 40 percent in October or from 1,292 to 777.

The situation worsened in November 2005 with statistics pointing to a 39 percent drop in the number of tourists —from 8,140 to 5,023.

In all, Tinian has lost 5,055 tourists since Japan Airline’s withdrawal.

Data for last month, however, hasn’t been released yet.

But tourism officials are optimistic that it fared well compared to the previous quarter due to the Chinese New Year holidays.

Local residents are also hoping the possibility of more casino development on their island will change the downtrend in their tourist arrival rates.

The majority of tourists visiting the island are from the People’s Republic in China who are flown in by charter flights of the Tinian Dynasty Hotel & Casino, the first and so far the only establishment offering casino and resort facilities on the island.

[PIR editor’s note: Bridge Investment Group LLC, an American investment firm, has already been granted a 40-year permit to operate a US$150 million hotel and casino on the island by the Tinian Casino Gaming Control Commission (read the story).]

But Japanese tourists too form a large percentage of travelers to the island.

Most of them say they like Tinian because of its pristine beaches and peaceful atmosphere, an irony when one considers its role during World War II.

The island was used by American forces to launch the atomic bombs against the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Japanese tourists like Hiroyuki Shinohara said he knows the historical relevance of the island. He suggested that local authorities make the Japanese cultural influence on the island more visible to make them feel more at home.

February 1, 2006

Marianas Variety: www.mvariety.com

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