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By Liberty Dones

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, Aug 5) – Hotel occupancy in the Northern Marianas in June improved a bit from two months ago but was still low compared to the same month last year.

Data from the Hotel Association of Northern Mariana Islands showed an occupancy rate of 55.42 in June this year. This is about 11 percent lower than in June 2006 of 66.38 percent, but higher than in May this year, which was at 52.32 percent, and April 2007, which had an unprecedented low of 49.45 percent.

In the first six months of 2007, average hotel occupancy rate was at 61 percent, a decline of about 4 percent from the same period in 2006.

In terms of room rate, June's median figure went up to US$82.88 from US$80.23 during the same month in 2006. June's room price was also the highest recorded for the month of June since 2000.

At the height of the CNMI’s tourism industry in calendar year 1996, average occupancy was 85.57 percent. Peak room rates occurred in 1997 with an average rate of US$136.06.

Local hotel occupancy plummeted when Japan Airlines pulled out of the CNMI in October 2005 and Continental Micronesia cancelled its Hong Kong and Taiwan service later that year.

Meantime, HANMI said the slight increases in room rates (at US$91.29) in 2006 reflected all of the investments in renovations and improvements in the hotel industry, which amounted to some US$60 million.

The minimal growth, however, was immediately stunted by the suspension of Northwest Airlines' Osaka flights in October 2006. This flight will resume in December this year

In terms of workforce, data showed a consistent decline since April this year. From 2,003 in March this year, total employment went down to 1,981 in April; 1,964 in May, and further down to 1,959 in June.

Guam's hotel and restaurant performance is not very far from the Northern Marianas.

Guam's weighted occupancy rate decreased to 55 percent in June from the 63 percent posted during the same month in 2006. Guam's weighted average room rate in June was up at US$99 from the US$95 posted in the same month last year.

Year-to-date, Guam's hotel occupancy was slightly up at 63 percent from 62 percent last year.

Guam's room rate went up to US$104 on a year-to-date from US$95 during the same period in 2006.

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