August. 26. 2021
The Mariana Islands extends travel bubble benefits with Korea through December
|Bird Island on Saipan / Courtesy of Marianas Visitors Authority Korea|
By Jun Ji-hye
The Marianas Visitors Authority (MVA) Board of Directors has decided to extend subsidies and benefits given to travel companies and tourists participating in the travel bubble program with Korea until the end of December, in a bid to attract more visitors from Korea.
On June 30, the Korean government signed a travel bubble agreement with the Northern Marianas, which includes Saipan, Tinian and Rota, to allow group tours for fully vaccinated people.
The term “travel bubble” refers to a partnership between two or more cities or countries with similar rates of COVID-19 infections to allow quarantine-free air travel in both directions.
The Marianas’ Travel Investment Resumption Plan (TRIP) program provides subsidies to airlines, hotels, travel agencies and other related businesses to help jumpstart tourism, which has been hit hard by the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic.
The Mariana Islands had originally planned to apply the TRIP program for only eight weeks following July 24, when the travel bubble agreement was implemented.
The program supports weekly flights from Incheon to Saipan by Asiana Airlines, Jeju Air and T’way Air.
It also supports the full operation of a “quarantine resort,” Pacific Islands Club Saipan, where all arriving travel bubble passengers must first quarantine, and two hotels where passengers can stay after their quarantine: Kensington Hotel Saipan and World Resort Saipan.
In addition, polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for COVID-19 in Saipan will be free of charge for all Korean travelers who have booked the trips through travel agencies in Korea.
“We are pleased to see more businesses reopening and people returning to work because of the travel bubble program,” MVA Board Chair Viola Alepuyo said. “It’s really a light at the end of the tunnel for our community members who have been able to return to work because more businesses have reopened their doors. We are extending the TRIP program so that we can continue slowly restoring tourism through the end of the year.”
The MVA added that it has been in constant communication with the Commonwealth Healthcare Corporation and the COVID-19 Task Force to ensure that all the necessary precautions are taken to cope with virus infections.
|Managaha Island on Saipan / Courtesy of the Marianas Visitors Authority Korea|
In accordance with the signing of the travel bubble agreement, Asiana Airlines resumed flights to Saipan on July 24, followed by T’way Air on July 29. Jeju Air had already resumed flights early the month before on June 8.
The first six travel bubble tourists, who had been fully vaccinated, boarded an Asiana Airlines plane departing on July 24.
According to the Korean Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, 42 Korean tourists have participated in the travel bubble program over the past month, with the number expected to more than double in September as the Chuseok long weekend falls on Sept. 18 through 22.
“Eighty-five tourists are scheduled to depart for Saipan in September,” a ministry official said, noting that the number of travel bubble tourists has been lower than expected due partially to setbacks the country has faced in receiving and distributing COVID-19 vaccines due to supply issues.