Decline In CNMI Japanese Arrivals Concerns Official

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Visitors Authority chair: Everyone should do something about drop

By Raquel C. Bagnol

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Oct. 14, 2015) – The continuing decline of arrivals from what used to be the NMI’s biggest tourism market, Japan, is a big concern that everybody should pay attention to and do something about, according to Marianas Visitors Authority chairman of the board and Tan Holdings president Jerry Tan.

The guest speaker at the Rotary Club of Saipan meeting at the Hyatt on Tuesday, Tan said Japan still had the largest market share in 2011 at 42 percent, but this is now down to 19 percent.

"Every year Japan continues to decline and we are looking at another decline to fewer than 100,000 tourists this year," Tan said.

"We can’t afford to lose our Japanese market but the numbers continue to go down."

Tan, whose businesses on island include several hotels, said the Japanese market reached its peak in 1997 with about 450,000 Japanese tourists, but the market began to decline drastically in 2005 when Japan Airlines pulled out of the CNMI.

"Overnight, JAL’s decision turned the CNMI’s economy upside-down. We have suffered an 87 percent decline in the Japan market over the past 20 years."

Tan said, at that time there was no second or third market to turn to.

Hawaii and Guam are the CNMI’s main competitors for the Japanese market, he added.

Last year, Hawaii had 1.2 million Japanese tourists while Guam had 810,000. The CNMI got only 110,000 tourists from Japan.

Tan said these figures show that the Japanese market is still very healthy, but more Japanese tourists are going to the CNMI’s competitors.

"Japanese tourists are not coming to the CNMI, but it does not mean they’ve stopped going to beach resorts. They just go to other destinations."

Like Korea and China, Japan is about 3 hours away from Saipan, Tan said.

"But Japan is actually closer to us, and China and Korea are at least an hour farther away, but the Japanese tourists are not coming here."

He said this year, the CNMI can expect the Japan market to continue to decline while the Korean and Chinese markets will continue to grow.

Tan said tourists from Japan and other markets say they visit Saipan and the CNMI for the beaches and for the beautiful islands.

"They like our islands as they do Hawaii and Guam. I don’t believe that because of the yen devaluation and Japan’s economic struggles we will lose them. Japanese tourists are still traveling. But they go to Guam, just 30 minutes away from us.

"I’m really concerned about where this is going, and I believe that we need to think about long-term plans. We want to see growth in the numbers in the Japan market because we now have the opportunity for additional markets like Korea and China."

Tan said for 30 years, the CNMI relied only on the Japanese market and the islands still can’t afford to lose it.

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