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AS the China market continues to grow, three airlines are adding flights to Saipan before the end of the year: Sichuan Airlines, Asiana Airlines and Dynamic Airways.
Asiana Airlines general manager Park Sung-Nam earlier told Variety that Asiana is adding one flight from Incheon to Saipan beginning on Oct. 25. This means that there will be two flights daily from Incheon to Saipan. From nine, Asiana will have 16 flights a week. Two of these flights are from Busan.
For his part, Saipan Travel Inc. president Tom Liu said Sichuan Airlines is adding two more flights this November.
“There are six flights a week right now, and we plan to add two more flights in November from Shanghai, ” he added, in anticipation of one less flight from Japan.
Liu said Delta Air Lines is cancelling the evening flight from Japan on Oct. 23.
Sichuan Airlines currently flies four times from Shanghai: every Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. It flies twice a week from Guangzhou, every Monday and Friday.
Sichuan Airlines uses an Airbus A330 aircraft, which accommodates up to 300 passengers.
All the flights from China are charter flights unlike Asiana and Jeju Air’s that fly to Saipan via the Incheon-Saipan and Busan-Saipan routes.
For his part, Top Development Inc. president and chief executive officer for Saipan operations Alfred K.K. Ho said Dynamic Airways will increase to 11 its three weekly flights from Hong Kong.
He said in September, Dynamic had three additional flights. There will be four more in October and two added in November.
Despite the steady increase in Chinese tourist arrivals, their numbers are tempered by the lack of hotel rooms.
The Marianas Visitors Authority has recorded a 30 percent drop in arrivals owing to the closure of the airport following Typhoon Soudelor, but Saipan Travel Inc. president Tom Liu said Chinese tourists still want to visit the island.
“But the limitations are hotel rooms, infrastructure, transportation and restaurants, ” he added.
“Our growth depends on the availability of rooms. If there are no rooms, we can’t grow anymore. Right now it is all maxed out.”
Liu said Saipan Travel Inc. needs 600 rooms every day or about 24 percent of the 2, 600 total hotel rooms available on Saipan.
Saipan Travel Inc. is the largest tour operator that brings in Chinese tourists to the CNMI.
“We have 900 guests here every day, ” Liu said. “Soon it will be 1, 200 every day, when we add the two flights.”
Top Development Inc. president and chief executive officer Alfred K. K. Ho shares Liu’s sentiment.
“It all depends on the hotel rooms, ” said Ho referring to the growth of Chinese arrivals.
But with more hotels opening up next year, Ho is projecting that there will be about 1, 000 rooms available next year.
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