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Koreans outpaced Japanese for first time

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, Jan. 5, 2012) – November 2011 visitor arrivals to the Northern Mariana Islands were up 8 percent compared to November 2010, according to the latest numbers of the Marianas Visitors Authority.

In its report issued yesterday, arrivals to the islands of Saipan, Tinian, and Rota registered 29,275 visitors in November compared to 27,179 in November 2010. The jump also marks the first increase in arrivals this calendar year compared to last.

For the first time, arrivals from Korea outpaced Japan. Arrivals from Korea were up 9 percent to 11,389 visitors, nearly 2,000 more visitors than tourists from Japan for the month. An increase in available air seats contributed to the jump. Asiana Airlines began operating Busan-Saipan charter flights on Nov. 16, 2011, and will continue through March 2012, representing a gain of 7,614 seats during this period. In addition, it is expected that charter flights operated by Delta Air Lines will add an additional 3,094 seats from Busan starting January 5, 2012.

[PIR editor’s note: While a marked increase of Korean and Chinese visitors over Japanese travelers visited the CNMI, the Hotel Association reported only 64 percent occupancy between its twelve hotels in December, down 3 since last year. The proposed U.S. visa waiver for Russian tourists to nearby Guam is also expected to affect tourism in the CNMI, whose own visa program will now compete with Guam’s, although CNMI officials hope the end result to the program is to eliminate the need for visas altogether.]

"Delta is now entering the Korea-Saipan market for the first time, an exciting new development which bodes well for continued growth in Korean arrivals to the Northern Marianas," said MVA managing director Perry Tenorio. "The key is to support these new flights with adequate promotions and build enough demand for the flights to continue."

In further good news from the Korea market, Asiana Airlines boosted its Incheon-Saipan service from 10 to 14 weekly flights beginning Oct. 31, and in tandem with the increase in the number of weekly flights to double-daily service, has also increased the size of the aircraft on the route to Boeing 767s with 250 seats each. This drove an additional 4,491 seats out of Seoul to the CNMI in November. Finally, Asiana had also upgraded its nighttime service to an Airbus 330 with 275 seats from Oct. 1 to Dec. 4, resulting in a gain of 4,312 seats.

Arrivals from Japan dropped 17 percent to 9,527, largely due to the decrease in airseats from Narita. In November 2011, the NMI received two daily flights from Narita compared to three daily flights in November 2010. However, Delta Air Lines launched a third weekly flight again on Dec. 29, 2011, supplementing the current two daily flights from Narita with four new flights a week using a Boeing 757 with 182 seats. Asiana Airlines re-launched daily service from Osaka on Dec. 22, 2011, using an Airbus 321 with 177 seats through March 5, when the airline is expected to upgrade the daily Osaka service to a Boeing 767 with 250 seats through April 6.

Arrivals from China jumped 156 percent in November to 5,936 visitors, an increase of nearly 4,000 more visitors than last November. This November the NMI received six flights weekly from China, compared to only two flights weekly last November.

Arrivals from Russia posted a decrease of 17 percent to 240 in November 2011. Arrivals were also down in November from the United States (52 percent to 476), Guam (5 percent to 1,336), and the Philippines (9 percent to 50).

Arrivals increased in November from Hong Kong (63 percent to 49) and Other Areas (24 percent to 272).

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