Visitor arrivals to the islands of Saipan, Tinian, and Rota in the Northern Mariana Islands grew 646% to 8,256 visitors in September 2022, compared to 1,107 visitors received in September 2021, according to the latest numbers of the Marianas Visitors Authority.
In fiscal year 2022 which ended in September, a total of 69,534 visitors had come to the Marianas compared to 5,265 visitors the year before.
A total of 6,502 visitors arrived from South Korea in September 2022, compared to only 801 visitors in September 2021 following the July 2021 implementation of the MVA’s Tourism Resumption Investment Plan program.
The Korean won continues to fall further against the United States dollar, costing Korean visitors more to purchase the same amount of service in the Marianas. As a result, Korean visitors are being enticed by destinations where the won has more purchasing power. The fourth wave of COVID-19 in Korea has also contributed to a reduction in flights to the Marianas from mid-August through September.
The Marianas received 202 visitors from Japan in September 2022, compared to only seven visitors in September 2021. On September 1, 2022, three weekly flights from Narita to Saipan by United Airlines began under incentives offered by the TRIP program. The program will continue for an initial six months as the MVA and tourism partners work to stabilize the Japanese market. Major challenges facing the market include a weak Japanese yen, rising fuel surcharges, and generous incentives for domestic travel within Japan, including Okinawa, whose climate is similar to the Marianas. Furthermore, only 20% of children ages 5-11 are vaccinated, and active seniors over 60 are apprehensive to travel overseas.
The Marianas also received 911 visitors from Guam, 428 visitors from elsewhere in the US, and a combined 213 additional visitors from all other destinations in September.
September’s figure is about one-third the number of average monthly arrivals prior to the coronavirus endemic, but it marks a significant increase in arrivals since the implementation of TRIP. The TRIP program was awarded the 2022 Pacific Asia Travel Association Gold Award for Destination Resilience (Global) on October 7, 2022, and the MVA is now looking at further expanding TRIP to other markets as more destinations ease travel restrictions and travel demand continues to increase.