SAIPAN — The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands is looking at the possibility of establishing travel bubble programs with other tourism markets, including Japan.

Gov. Ralph Torres on Monday said that 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 U.S. rate measures those who are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, or individuals 12 years old or older. 

Marianas Visitors Authority Managing Director Priscilla Iakopo on Monday said the MVA board has approved the creation of a Japan Tourism Resumption Investment Plan, or TRIP, ad hoc committee to be chaired by Hyatt Regency Saipan General Manager Nick Nishikawa.

Iakopo said MVA also is communicating with its Japan office to begin discussions with travel partners in Japan.

She said MVA was told that Japan currently is focusing on controlling the coronavirus in the Asian nation.

“When they’re able to control that, I guess, they’ll start discussions with us,” she added.

Last week, she said she spoke with Skymark Airlines, which had to suspend its Japan-Saipan flight service because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“They’re still asking for our patience,” Iaokopo said, referring to Skymark Airlines. “Once they’re ready to resume travel again, whether that will be domestically or internationally, we will be on standby.”

Auckland is now in its fourth week of level-four lockdown – the strictest level of restrictions – with the rest of the country leaving lockdown last week.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Auckland was likely to move to level-three restrictions next week, but it could be weeks before the current COVID-19 cluster is eliminated.

Based on that, any resumption of Australia-New Zealand travel may not be possible before Christmas.

Key market for Queensland

A total of 66.5 per cent of NZ’s eligible population (those aged 12 years and over) have had at least one dose of the vaccine, and 34 per cent have had both doses.

Australian Tourism Minister Dan Tehan has flagged international flights for double-vaccinated Australians to a number of destinations could be on the cards by the end of the year.

“Well, they’ll be all part of the discussions that we’ll be having, especially as we seek to set up travel bubbles once we hit that 80 per cent double vaccination rate, and looking at those requirements,” Mr Tehan told ABC on Monday.

He said some countries required travellers to get a test three days before arrival and then tested when in the country, while others rely on rapid antigen tests at airports.

“So, there’s various ideas and thought being put into this, and they’ll be part of the discussions that we’ll continue to have as we seek to set up travel bubbles, once we hit that 80 per cent double vax rate,” he said.

The Morrison government is also working on vaccination passports for incoming passengers.

But tourism-reliant states such as Queensland are keen to reopen the existing trans-Tasman travel bubble once it is safe.

Queensland Tourism Industry Council chief executive Daniel Gschwind said there was no reason why there should not be travel from New Zealand to Queensland and vice versa once the current outbreaks are under control.

New Zealand is a key market for Queensland tourism operators, with a large number of Kiwi relatives living in regions such as the Gold Coast.

“We certainly would like to see travel with New Zealand activated. It would be highly desirable,” Mr Gschwind said.

“Queensland and New Zealand are very compatible markets.”

The Cook Islands will not reopen travel to New Zealand until there has been no community transmission of Covid-19 for 14 days and travellers over 12 have been fully vaccinated, Prime Minister Mark Brown says.

Cook Islands borders have been closed to New Zealand for more than three weeks since the first Delta case was first reported on August 16 in Auckland.

The country’s government closed off travel immediately, only allowing Kiwis in the Cook Islands to return.

Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown says his government is doing everything possible to protect the health of Cook Islanders and the country’s economy.

Ryan Anderson/Stuff

Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown says his government is doing everything possible to protect the health of Cook Islanders and the country’s economy.

Brown said the decision by his Cabinet might be disappointing to many, but those people now had at least some indication of when tourism may resume.

READ MORE:
* Cook Islands tourism focus turns to Australia
* Cook Islands ready to host Kiwi tourists from May 1, says Prime Minister Mark Brown
* Fears Cook Islands will not be able to host as many visitors if two-way bubble doesn’t inflate soon

He said that at some point in the future, all countries would have to live with Covid-19. However, that time wasn’t now for Cook Islanders, as they closely monitor New Zealand’s Delta outbreak and vaccination programme.

Torika Tokalau/Stuff

Cook Islands hotel owner Richard Vinsen says the past 15 months have been difficult but he’s hopeful the New Zealand travel bubble will revive the country’s fortunes.

“As one of the few countries in the world that has managed to keep Covid-19 out, we do not want to do anything to jeopardise the safety of our people,” Brown said.

“While we acknowledge that at some point in the future all countries will need to learn to live with Covid-19, that time has not yet come.

“We do not want an outbreak here. The impact on our health resources as well as our economy would be devastating.”

Brown said his government was doing everything possible to protect the health and wellbeing of Cook Islanders as well as the country’s economy.

The Cook Islands closed its borders to New Zealand as soon as a community case was identified in Auckland in August.

RYAN ANDERSON/Stuff

The Cook Islands closed its borders to New Zealand as soon as a community case was identified in Auckland in August.

More than 300 Cook Islanders stranded in New Zealand would have to wait until at least next Tuesday to find out if they could return home.

Brown said his government was looking at repatriation flights from Christchurch for those outside of Auckland in level 2 areas, but no dates had been set yet.

Those travellers would need to provide a negative Covid-19 test 72 hours before departure, complete a Cook Islands managed return application form and undergo a seven-day mandatory quarantine upon arrival into Rarotonga.

Brown said because of the risk of Covid-19, Cook Islanders in Auckland had to wait for a drop to level 2 or below before being allowed to catch a flight home.

His Cabinet would continue to review new information and advice from its health authorities when vaccination numbers increase in

KUALA LUMPUR, 14 SEPTEMBER 2021 – The Langkawi travel bubble which has been well-received by Malaysians since its announcement last week will be a catalyst towards the revival of tourism and the AirAsia Group intends to play a strong role in further solidifying the return of travel.

As the transformation of AirAsia into a digital travel and lifestyle group is now complete, travellers can now book their ride to the airport and within Langkawi island, confirm their flights and accommodation to Langkawi, as well as complete their duty-free shopping all within one platform – the airasia Super App, at unbeatable value and prices.

For a start, AirAsia Malaysia (flight code AK) will be resuming its flights to and from Langkawi with 90 weekly flights departing from Kuala Lumpur (63x weekly), Penang (14x weekly), Johor Bahru (7x weekly), Ipoh (3x weekly) and Kota Bharu (3x weekly). More routes will be added and frequencies increased as the travel demand grows in tandem with the reopening of more leisure destinations in the near future.

Guests can look forward to an improved, more exciting travel experience as the airasia Super App is collaborating with the Langkawi Development Authority to offer a new digitized and contactless duty-free shopping experience which will see an island-wide and same-day delivery across Langkawi hotels by the end of this month. Soon there will also be a full spectrum of fulfilment from inflight seat delivery, airport pickup apart from hotel and home delivery with 13 Asean retailers on board with airasia’s duty free offerings.

The airasia Super App which now offers e-hailing with the recent launch of airasia ride will also be operating in Langkawi beginning 16th September 2021. The airasia ride e-hailing service can be booked by clicking on the ‘Ride’ icon on the airasia Super App, or visitingairasia.com/ride.

Riad Asmat, CEO AirAsia Malaysia and Amanda Woo, CEO airasia Super App announced these initiatives at an online press conference held today, which was also attended by En Nasaruddin Abdul Muttalib, Chief Executive Officer, Lembaga Pembangunan Langkawi (LADA).

Riad Asmat, CEO AirAsia Malaysia said: ‘Since the government’s announcement of the Langkawi travel bubble’s SOP last week, we have seen very strong uptake for seats to Langkawi, especially with the RM12 low fares and RM99 SNAP deals by AirAsia. This clearly indicates a strong pent up demand for travel and AirAsia is committed towards working with the government, Tourism Malaysia, LADA and all tourism industry players to make this a success with more than 90 weekly flights to Langkawi. From an operational standpoint, we have prepared extensively and implemented robust and comprehensive health and safety protocols to ensure all of our guests can travel safely, while our crew can bring our guests to their favourite island destination safely as well.

‘Our self check-in system on the airasia Super App is our latest innovation that integrates data from certified healthcare providers to seamlessly verify a guest’s travel eligibility based on their test certificate and/or vaccination certificate. Our comprehensive travel

AirAsia reports “very encouraging” demand for flights into the tourist destination of Langkawi, as it ramps up capacity ahead of the island’s reopening to vaccinated domestic travellers.

Still, AirAsia Malaysia chief Riad Asmat says it was “difficult to predict” broader recovery prospects, given the unpredictable nature of the coronavirus pandemic, which has crimped travel demand.

AirAsia

Speaking at virtual briefing ahead of the 16 September launch of the Langkawi travel bubble, Riad says the carrier has sold nearly 200,000 seats — and counting — since the Malaysian government announced the island’s reopening earlier in the month.

“We are very encouraged by the demand. There is pent-up demand…people are eager to move…eager to visit other states,” he adds.

The low-cost carrier will operate 90 weekly domestic flights to the island from 16 September, with the majority of them — at 63 weekly flights — from its Kuala Lumpur hub. Other Malaysian cities with flights to Langkawi include Johor Bahru, Penang and Ipoh.

“More routes will be added and frequencies increased as the travel demand grows in tandem with the reopening of more leisure destinations in the near future,” AirAsia Malaysia states.

AirAsia’s schedules compare with the 28 flights a week operated by flag carrier Malaysia Airlines, as well as 10 weekly flights by Firefly.

Asked by FlightGlobal what effect the travel bubble will have on AirAsia’s broader recovery, Riad offers a cautiously optimistic outlook.

“[It] is difficult for us to predict what is going to happen in the next couple of weeks or months. We obviously have forecasts, we have our results, we have our plans going forward, we definitely have plans for 2022, but it is all dependent on the situations such as this,” he says, referencing the travel bubble’s launch.

Adds Riad: “It is a test…and hopefully we can make it a success. [Is this] light at the end of the tunnel? Yes, for sure.”

The move to cautiously allow again interstate travel — currently restricted in Malaysia in recent months as the country battled its worst-ever wave of coronavirus infections — comes amid a broader shift towards living with an endemic coronavirus.

Langkawi officials have set a target of 400,000 visitors by the end of the year, and they hope that the travel bubble will help revitalise the tourism sector on island, which has been hard-hit by the pandemic.

The Malaysian government has said that it would consider opening up more destinations in the country opening up once vaccination rates hit the benchmark 80%.

KUALA LUMPUR: The travel bubble initiative which will be implemented in Langkawi from Thursday will serve as a benchmark for opening more tourist destinations in the country.

In this regard, Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri has advised those planning to travel to the resort island for a holiday to be responsible tourists and follow the prescribed standard operating procedure (SOP) because their action will determine the fate of the country’s tourism sector.

“We want to see how Langkawi will impact the entire economic sector, especially the tourism sector.

“This will be a model of our travel bubble.

“We want and hope Langkawi to be a good model to enable us to open more travel bubbles,” she told a press conference at the Parliament building yesterday.

Nancy reminded all parties to comply with the SOP, which includes tourists being required to use transport services provided by travel agencies if they are travelling by land.

Nancy said there were proposals from the private sector to set up a centre for conducting swab tests for tourists going to Langkawi.

“It is a very good initiative, although it is not compulsory for individuals to go for swab tests.

“I have asked them to speak to Lada and I hope they can work together,” she said, referring to the Langkawi Development Authority. — Bernama

Many countries around the world, concerned over the economic and human costs of the lengthy shutdown of international travel during the pandemic, are busy experimenting with how to reopen their borders while protecting their citizens. The United States, in stark contrast, is locked down even more tightly than it was when the Trump administration first put travel restrictions in place at the start of the outbreak. Against all common sense, fully vaccinated travelers from many countries with much lower case rates than the United States remain blocked.

Amid the tribal fights that roil American politics daily, liberals and conservatives seem to have found strange common ground on closed borders. The left fears the virus; the right fears foreigners. The result has been a policy gridlock that is increasingly isolating the United States, especially from its closest allies, while doing nothing to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Many countries that have endured several COVID-19 waves are nonetheless trying to re-open their borders as conditions permit. European Union member states have for many months regularly updated their lists of restricted countries based on the latest epidemiological data. Most have now opened to foreign travelers, generally requiring proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test before arrival. The EU recently removed the United States from its safe travel list due to the surge of the delta variant, but Germany, France, Spain, and most other EU member states are still permitting travel by fully vaccinated Americans or those recovered from COVID-19 and naturally immune. Only a handful of European countries, such as Norway and Bulgaria, have opted to close to U.S. visitors, while some others allow only limited essential travel.

Many countries around the world, concerned over the economic and human costs of the lengthy shutdown of international travel during the pandemic, are busy experimenting with how to reopen their borders while protecting their citizens. The United States, in stark contrast, is locked down even more tightly than it was when the Trump administration first put travel restrictions in place at the start of the outbreak. Against all common sense, fully vaccinated travelers from many countries with much lower case rates than the United States remain blocked.

Amid the tribal fights that roil American politics daily, liberals and conservatives seem to have found strange common ground on closed borders. The left fears the virus; the right fears foreigners. The result has been a policy gridlock that is increasingly isolating the United States, especially from its closest allies, while doing nothing to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Many countries that have endured several COVID-19 waves are nonetheless trying to re-open their borders as conditions permit. European Union member states have for many months regularly updated their lists of restricted countries based on the latest epidemiological data. Most have now opened to foreign travelers, generally requiring proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test before arrival. The EU recently removed the United States from its safe travel list due to the surge of the delta variant,

THE Commonwealth is now looking at the possibility of establishing travel bubble programs with other tourism markets, including Japan.

Gov. Ralph DLG Torres on Monday said that 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 U.S. rate measures those who are eligible, or individuals 12 years of age or older, for the Covid-19 vaccine.

“So it’s a little bit different on the vaccine per population requirements, but as you know, around the world, the higher percentage of vaccination per country, the safer it is, so I’m sure that before they open up their borders, they would want to reach a certain number of percentage of their population to be vaccinated,” the governor said, referring to Japan.

With the CNMI recently reaching an 80% vaccination rate, the governor thanked the community, first responders, doctors, nurses, “and everyone involved in the effort to reach this goal.”

He added, “I’m really excited that we reached our goal. I guess when you reach a goal, now we’re going to try to reach another goal, which is hopefully 90%…. Now we’re focusing on our students, our kids, our [Public School System] student body, our faculties, and of course, we continue to push also our government and private entities.”

Marianas Visitors Authority Managing Director Priscilla M. Iakopo on Monday said the MVA board has approved the creation of a Japan Tourism Resumption Investment Plan, or TRIP, ad hoc committee to be chaired by Hyatt Regency Saipan general manager Nick Nishikawa.

Iakopo said MVA is also communicating with its Japan office to begin discussions with travel partners in Japan.

She said MVA was told that Japan is currently focusing on controlling the coronavirus in the Asian nation.

“When they’re able to control that, I guess they’ll start discussions with us,” she added.

Last week, she said she spoke with Skymark Airlines which had to suspend its Japan-Saipan flight service because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“They’re still asking for our patience,” Iaokopo said, referring to Skymark Airlines. “Once they’re ready to resume travel again, whether that will be domestically or internationally, we will be on standby.”

Japanese Consul Kazuhiko Ono, for his part, said establishing a travel bubble between the 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 at the moment? So I think, in my opinion, travel bubble is not a perfect scheme, but now the population of Japan who are already vaccinated is more than 50%, and I think the number is going up, so…maybe October or November…we will [ease] some protocols and some restrictions, including those affecting travel,” he said.

Your chance to seas the day is finally here, and these restaurants in Langkawi are opening their doors to welcome you. 

Here comes the excitement of planning and booking your flights to Langkawi, as the island will reopen to fully vaccinated visitors on 16 September. The idea of tanning by the clear blue water may be your top priority, but you will relish dining out at these top restaurants in Langkawi. From the best seafood restaurants to fine dining and local specialities, Langkawi has it all.

Here’s our list of the best restaurants in Langkawi.

KayuPuti

Image credit: Marriot

This elegant dining space located in St Regis is worth adding to your list if you crave a momentous affair. The bright and serene beach house overlooks the calming ocean. The menu features Asian-influenced haute cuisine with delightful drinks to have on the side. In our opinion, the Exquisite Halibut and Stanbroke Beef Tenderloin are must-haves when you’re there. Bonus points: it’s one of the best ways to treat yourself after endless months of not travelling.

Opening hours: 6 PM – 10 PM (daily)

Contact: 04-960-6666

The Gulai House

Tucked deep in the rainforest, this award-winning restaurant offers gastronomical Malaysian cuisine set in a kampung house. Nothing gets better than being surrounded by nature with an indulgent feast on Langkawi island. The thought of dining in nature is a remarkable way to enjoy the island if you haven’t had the chance to do so.

Opening hours: 6.30 PM – 10.30 PM (daily)

Contact: 04-950-0500

Gallo Nero

Image credit: Instagram/ @gallonerolangkawi

If you need to break away from seafood, an Italian meal from Gallo Nero is what you need. As one of the most established Italian restaurants on the island, Gallo Nero serves lip-smacking pasta favoured by many locals and foreigners. We suggest ordering their lobster pasta and gnocchi. The restaurant also offers new lunch specials every week. 

Opening hours: 12.30 PM – 10 PM (Wednesday – Sunday)

Contact: 04-952-3555

FatCupid

Image credit: FatCupid

Located in La Pari Pari, this family-owned restaurant is a favourite among tourists, thanks to its authentic Malaysian and Western menu. Tucked away from the busy tourist attractions, this hidden gem can do no wrong if you’re in the mood for burgers and pizzas. Perfect for families and couples, the ambience is splendid if you’re looking for a way to relax after a long day of exploring the island. 

Opening hours: 10 AM – 3 PM, 6 PM – 10 PM (Wednesday – Monday)

Contact: 04-955-3010

The Pavilion 

Image credit: Datai Langkawi

Is there anything better than surrounding yourself with fresh air and lush greenery? Located in the Datai Langkawi, the beautiful Pavilion sits 30 metres above the ground, like an opulence treehouse. The award-winning restaurant serves traditional Thai cuisine overlooking the rainforest. The signature Steamed Fish is the star of the menu, as well as Mango Sticky Rice. Bonus tip: It’s best to arrive here before the sun

New Zealand doesn’t expect the trans-Tasman bubble with Australia to resume any time soon – and when it does return, travellers can expect far more stringent rules than those of the relatively short-lived Bubble 1.0, which ran from April to July.

Although Australia-New Zealand flights were paused for eight weeks, with the bubble to be re-evaluated this month, NZ Covid-19 Minister Chris Hipkins now says it would be “unrealistic to expect that there’ll be speedy decisions in the next few weeks.”

Hipkins has previously said the country would “not necessarily” rule out opening to individual states rather than Australia as a whole.

However, with New Zealand now battling a surge of Covid-19’s Delta variant, Hipkins last week told the NZ parliament that the Government’s “reopening” plan to allow international travel would need to be completely reworked in the light of this new outbreak.

“It would be fair to say that Delta has actually changed some of the thinking about that, even in the last few weeks,” he reflected.

Bubble 2.0

Qantas is now selling flights between Australia and New Zealand from December 18 as part of its international restart “on the assumption some or all parts of the two-way bubble will restart.”

However, the relatively hassle-free approach of the original trans-Tasman bubble and the pre-Covid days are likely to be a thing of the past, suggests Air New Zealand CEO Greg Foran.

“The reason I make that distinction is that a bubble makes it quite a seamless experience for a customer,” Foran noted last week.

“You’re not having to do a pre-departure test. You’re not having to prove you’ve been vaccinated.”

“I do think that we (will) open up to Australia, but in all likelihood we may end up operating Australia like we do with many countries when we feel travel is safe,” Foran told The Australian.

“I can imagine you’re probably going to have to be vaccinated. You’re probably going to have to do a pre-departure test. You’re probably going to have to do a test on the way home, and you’re probably going to have to do a test when you arrive back in the country.”

Also read: Air New Zealand reboots plans for non-stop New York flights

David

David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.