WITH the CNMI-South Korea travel bubble taking effect this month, the Commonwealth continues to work to revive its tourism industry.
Last week, Governor Ralph DLG Torres announced that the Biden administration had approved his request to the US Department of Homeland Security to include Hong Kong again in the CNMI visa waiver program.
The CNMI administration sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on April 8, commending the federal administration for providing support to the Commonwealth during this pandemic, while formally requesting that DHS include Hong Kong again in the CNMI visa waiver program. in order to resume tourism safely.
Torres stressed the importance of resuming tourism with trusted travel partners to support the long-term well-being of CNMI residents.
“Our efforts to support a viable and thriving American community here, and to lay the foundation for economic diversification, hinge on our ability to reclaim our tourism market,” he said.
After the federal administration granted the Hong Kong visa waiver request, Torres said, “This is great news, as it allows us to kick-start tourism reopening plans with a stable and reliable travel partner. beneficial for the CNMI. Hong Kong hasn’t seen any local cases of Covid-19 for a month, and they are gradually vaccinating their people. Our plan with Hong Kong is to build on our Covid-19 protective measures, vaccination rate and beautification efforts of all our community partners to gradually return our tourism to a true sense of normalcy. This means more economic growth, which provides jobs for our local people, helps small businesses, restaurants and hotels, and funds government services.
The governor also emphasized that the resumption of tourism will always prioritize the health and safety of CNMI residents.
“We are committed to ensuring that our travel bubble with South Korea is done well to ensure the safety of South Korean visitors and our community,” he said.
The Governor’s Council of Economic Advisors thanked the Biden administration for listening to and supporting the needs of the Marianas, and commended the governor and his team for working diligently to make this possible.
“As the Marianas begin to reopen to tourism, we are working to establish strategic partnerships that will strengthen our tourism industry and support economic growth through the creation of jobs and income opportunities for local businesses and our government. Hong Kong’s inclusion in the CNMI Visa Waiver Program reopens a valuable and attractive source market for Marianas that will ultimately benefit our residents and improve their quality of life,” the council said.
“The council’s goal is to make the Marianas a world-class destination. As we reopen to the world, we are excited to share the transformation we have made and will continue to build in the years to come. »
Torres also expressed gratitude to the Biden administration, particularly DHS Secretary Mayorkas and DHS, for their support and for acknowledging CNMI’s response to the global Covid-19 pandemic.
“This is a great first step, and I also thank our community for supporting us on our road to recovery.”