The Northern Marianas are clamoring for more flights to keep the economy afloat

Saipan Airport, CNMI
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The Chamber official emphasized that CNMI not only keeps the tourism industry’s head above water, but 12 daily flights are very few.

Officials in the Northern Mariana Islands are clamoring for more international flights to land in the nation to help keep its struggling tourism sector and economy afloat.

Saipan Chamber of Commerce director Ron Smith said there should be at least 12 international flights a day.

The Chamber official emphasized that the daily minimum of 12 flights is a requirement not only for the CNMI tourism sector but also for the commonwealth economy in general to depend on visitor arrivals.

„These direct flights will allow us to recover a little bit, and you can see some other statistics related to the Chinese visitors and how important they are.

„From 40 percent to 3 percent, that accounts for most of the current decline that we’ve seen, so wherever it comes from, we don’t really have a choice, but we need a third market, and it’s got to be a strong one.”

„It should provide us with 200,000-300,000 visitors a year,” he said.

Compared to 2017, the number of visitors has decreased by 54 percent.

RNZ Pacific’s Northern Marianas correspondent Mark Rabako said the epidemic was partly to blame for the drop in tourists.

“We had no tourists for most of the year, and then China also went away because our tourist numbers stopped … until now we have basically had no flights from China.

„What Chinese tourists we have will come here via Japan or Korea.” he said

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Rabako said it is very important that more flights start arriving here.

„It’s the only industry we have that’s so important, if tourists don’t come to the CNMI there’s no business, and in a few years it’s going to be a ghost town.” he said.

Businesses are already feeling the impact, with the Hyatt Regency Saipan closing for more than 30 years on June 30, due to low visitor numbers.

Meanwhile, Ivan Guichocho, Vice Chairman of the Board of the National Hotel Association NMI (HANMI) said. Saipan Tribune This is an urgent situation for the sector.

There is only one way to improve hotel occupancy – through more flights and more tourists

„We just talked about the no-shows. And we talked about trying to get us to the base flight numbers we had last year without the additional Guam diversions, which is already a struggle.”

Compared to April 2023, the average room rate for April dropped by $10, Quichocho said, adding that HANMI members are making less money with a 35 percent lower average room stay.

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