Jerry L. Tan president of Tan Holdings Corp. and chairman of the Marianas Visitors Authority has to deal with an ailing economy in the Northern Mariana Islands the pull out of Japan Airlines’ flights to Saipan and the steep decline of a once prosperous garment industry… the NMI’s economy has taken a hit. To counter that economic punch Tan said his plans for MVA are to continue to stand behind a strategic plan proposed by the Fitial administration even as further unwelcome news was announced.

Tan told the Journal “The loss of air service has been a wake up call and that’s why the strategic plan was created. We are in a crisis. We have seen that the JAL flight suspension has caused a double-digit drop in tourism which is really devastating. We felt the full effect in March and April of this year. We did experience some losses earlier but because there were charter flights and holiday periods the full brunt was not felt until March and April when there were no special flights. We expect the loss of Cape Air flights to Rota to also have a very serious effect and now that we have had this announcement we are exploring what alternatives we have.”

In order to address the decrease in flights to Saipan and Rota an Air Service Committee was formed under the Strategic Economic Development Council. He said “I have full confidence in the committee which includes very experienced and dedicated people.” Carlos H. Salas consultant to the Commonwealth Ports Authority heads the committee. Tan said the committee was looking at a variety of scenarios. NMI government and MVA officials were scheduled to meet July 6 in Rota on the Cape Air October scheduled pull out.

“In much the same way as the major earthquake and typhoons caused a tourism crisis in Guam that got Guam moving the CNMI has now had its own call to action with the loss of vital air service. For the past year since that sudden announcement of JAL we have been planning our recovery ” Tan said.

In order to promote tourism the NMI developed a new five-year master plan which outlines strategies in such areas as air service key source markets — with country specific strategies — niche marketing destination enhancement and a competitive analysis.

The plan includes statistics on inbound tourism hotels outbound tourism from source markets and the performance of other markets. “It is probably the most comprehensive source of information about tourism in the region that you can get in any one up-to-date document. It offers strategies and ideas for how to improve our tourism industry which will require a dedicated public-private sector effort from various segments of the tourism industry and community. Basically the plan outlines how we can take our tourism industry from the current size up to one million tourists if we all work together toward this goal ” Tan said.

He said “Now that we have this plan it gives us the roadmap we need to move forward. It gives both the public and private sector meaningful projects to work on together.” In addition to the master plan MVA has launched ad hoc committees that follow the major headings in the plan to get a public-private partnership going in implanting the plan.

In the Dec. 12 2005 edition of the Journal (See “Tinian Dynasty offers chartered flight service for evening customers”) it was reported that through its relationship with Saipan Travel and Taga Air the Tinian Dynasty Hotel & Casino began chartering flights to the casino at the end of November 2005. Tan speaking on behalf of MVA said “We would of course be very pleased if the Tinian Dynasty Hotel & Casino or other airlines serving the CNMI such as Freedom Air were able to expand their service to fill the void. We’d also welcome any new airline that chooses to service this market.”

Tan said that the natural beauty and close proximity to major Asian countries is why most people visit the NMI as well as the year-round tropical weather that is the main attraction. He said the NMI also enjoys the safety and security of being an American destination a multiple-island destination with a small town atmosphere of friendliness and beautiful scenery.

“One thing the Northern Marianas has that other U.S. destinations do not have is the local government control to welcome tourists of more diverse nationalities. There are many things that define the Northern Marianas that we can promote ” Tan said.

MVA Visitor Goals
Year
Target Arrivals
% Change
2006
412 5000
-22%
2007
560 650
36%
2008
706 975
26%
2009
853 300
21%
2010
1 000 000
17%

Source: Marianas Visitors Authority

The master plan calls for one million tourists per year starting in 2010. “This is the administration’s goal and we have adopted it and are now looking to develop the strategies and tactics to achieve this. If we are able to do so it will make huge difference to improving the local economy to a level that will once again help support the community and government services that are necessary to the Commonwealth as a self-sustaining group islands. I have committed myself and the resources of our company Tan Holdings and our tourism-related business to being a part of this recovery. MBJ