THE Commonwealth is now exploring the possibility of establishing travel bubble programs with other tourism markets, including Japan.
Governor 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 general population while the US rate measures those who are eligible, or people 12 years of age or older, for the Covid-19 vaccine.
“So it’s a little different when it comes to vaccine needs per population, but as you know, around the world, the higher the percentage of vaccination per country, the safer it is, so I’m sure. that before opening their borders, they would like to reach a certain percentage of their population to be vaccinated, ”said the governor, referring to Japan.
With the CNMI having recently achieved an 80% vaccination rate, the governor thanked the community, first responders, doctors, nurses and “and all those involved in the effort to achieve this goal.”
He added: “I am really excited that we achieved our goal. I guess when you reach one goal we will now try to reach another one, which hopefully is 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.
Marianas Visitors Authority chief executive Priscilla M. Iakopo said on Monday that the MVA board approved the creation of an investment plan for the resumption of tourism in Japan, or TRIP, committee ad hoc which will be chaired by Hyatt Regency Saipan General Manager Nick Nishikawa.
Iakopo said MVA is also contacting its office in Japan to initiate discussions with travel partners in Japan.
She said MVA has learned that Japan is currently focusing on controlling the coronavirus in the Asian nation.
“When they are able to control this, I suppose 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 nationally or internationally, we will be on hold.”
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 that 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 … can -be October or November … we are going [ease] certain protocols and restrictions, including those affecting travel, ”he said.