The Commonwealth is now exploring the possibility of establishing travel bubble programs with other tourism markets, including Japan.
Gov. Ralph DLG Torres said on Monday he had spoken with Japanese consul Kazuhiko Ono regarding the vaccination rate in Japan.
He noted that Japan’s vaccination rate is based on the entire population while the US rate measures those who are eligible, or individuals 12 years of age or older, for the Covid-19 vaccine.
“So it’s a bit different on the vaccine needs per population, but as you know, worldwide, the higher the percentage of vaccination per country, the safer it is, so I’m sure before opening their borders, they would like to reach a certain number of percentage of their population to be vaccinated,” the governor said, referring to Japan.
As the CNMI recently achieved an 80% vaccination rate, the governor thanked the community, first responders, doctors, nurses and “everyone involved in the effort to achieve this goal.”
He added: “I am really delighted that we have achieved our goal. I guess when you reach one goal, we will now try to reach another goal, which is hopefully 90%… Now we focus on our students, our children, our [Public School System] student body, our faculties, and of course, we continue to push our government and private entities as well.
Mariana Visitors Authority chief executive Priscilla M. Iakopo said on Monday that the MVA board had approved the creation of a Japan Tourism Recovery Investment Plan, or TRIP. , an ad hoc committee that will be chaired by the general manager of the Hyatt Regency Saipan, Nick Nishikawa.
Iakopo said MVA is also communicating with its office in Japan to begin discussions with travel partners in Japan.
She said MVA has been informed that Japan is currently focusing on controlling the coronavirus in the Asian nation.
“When they are able to get this under control, I guess they will start discussions with us,” she added.
Last week, she said she spoke with Skymark Airlines which had to suspend its Japan-Saipan flight service due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“They always ask for our patience,” Iaokopo said, referring to Skymark Airlines. “Once they are ready to resume their travels, whether domestically or internationally, we will be on standby.”
Japanese Consul Kazuhiko Ono, for his part, said establishing a travel bubble between CNMI and Japan is not easy.
“As you can see, [the CNMI has] a travel bubble with Korea, but how many Korean tourists are visiting the Northern Mariana Islands right now? So I think, in my opinion, the travel bubble is not a perfect pattern, but now the population of Japan that is already vaccinated is over 50%, and I think the number is increasing, so… maybe october or november… we will [ease] certain protocols and certain restrictions, including those affecting travel,” he said.