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.”

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%.

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.

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.

Malaysia’s new prime minister says a regional travel bubble, including the 10 members of ASEAN and China, would help business and tourism recover from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. There has been a mixed response from the region’s tourism and business communities.

Malaysia is already planning to reopen its resort islands to domestic visitors next month and hopes to allow foreign tourists back next year.

PM Ismail Sabri Yaakob said on Friday ASEAN and China should consider the cross-border travel bubble for fully vaccinated tourists. “By doing this, we will be in a much better position to revive not only the tourism industry, but also our people-to-people connectivity,” he said.

Some industry insiders have poured cold water on the plan. Beijing has said there will be no outbound travel from China until after the second quarter of next year, news agencies reported last week.

“So far Singapore and Hong Kong have announced travel bubbles four times and cancelled each – and finally its dead in the water,” said Bill Barnett a Phuket, Thailand-based hospitality, tourism and real estate adviser. “Forget bubbles, the Sandbox from Phuket is proven to be a model that works. Vietnam has announced that Phu Quoc will have a similar programme in October for international vaccinated travellers so for now,  it’s all about islands, not bubbles,” he said.

Other travel experts are more optimistic.  “I fully support the work that the new Malaysian PM brought up. I think opening up the closed borders of Asia is very important now for vaccinated tourists. I have been advocating this and chasing the Cambodian government for the last eight months… this would be good, not just for tourism, but all the economy as well,” said Sinan Thuorn, the Cambodia Chairman of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), who welcomed Malaysia’s suggestion of including China in the travel bubble plan. “You know how many million Chinese tourists have been travelling around the world so Chinese have been one of the big markets here in terms of the tourism industry,” he said.

The ASEAN-China travel bubble would only apply to travellers who have received at least two Covid-19 vaccinations. Ismail Sabri said ASEAN and China should work on the mutual recognition of vaccine certificates. The Malaysian PM’s comments came in a pre-recorded speech at the opening of the China-ASEAN Expo and China-ASEAN Business and Investment Summit, held in Nanning, the capital of south China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. He said the plan would not just help the tourism industry but also help businesses by keeping supply chains flowing to provide essential goods and services. “This is critical for small and medium enterprises, which form the backbone of our economy.”

ASEAN overtook the EU as China’s largest trading partner last year. ASEAN is set to join China, Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership next year, creating the world’s biggest trade zone, with tariffs cut by as much as 90 percent on most products.

Related Posts

The travel bubble has been popped, but is there any chance left that it could be reinflated?

Friends and families split between New Zealand and Australia, industries hit hard by border closures, health experts and politicians all have a perspective on the trans-Tasman bubble.

In July the Government paused quarantine-free travel between the nations after 95 days as Australia’s Covid-19 outbreak worsened.

This week, it downplayed any chance the bubble could reopen soon, with Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins saying it would be “unrealistic to expect that there’ll be speedy decisions in the next few weeks”.

The first trans-Tasman bubble flight from Australia to Wellington lands in April this year.

Handout

The first trans-Tasman bubble flight from Australia to Wellington lands in April this year.

READ MORE:
* Air NZ and Qantas share different views on trans-Tasman bubble’s future
* Covid-19: Why 800 new contact tracers were brought on since Monday
* Australia’s Covid-19 outbreak ‘probably means the end of travel bubble’
* Quarantine and contact tracing: What the trans-Tasman bubble might look like

The bubble saw 154,000 people travel from Australia to New Zealand, according to Stats NZ.

Professor Shaun Hendy, a Covid-19 modeller at Te Pūnaha Matatini, said with uncontrolled outbreaks in New South Wales and Victoria, there was still a high risk to resuming quarantine-free travel.

“That free flow probably isn’t coming back again,” he said.

Professor Shaun Hendy says the “free flow” of the first trans-Tasman bubble probably isn’t coming back in the foreseeable future.

Elise Manahan/Supplied

Professor Shaun Hendy says the “free flow” of the first trans-Tasman bubble probably isn’t coming back in the foreseeable future.

Hendy suggested the possibility of quarantine-free travel with states such as Tasmania or Western Australia, but said that would require strict border controls within Australia.

He thought it was most likely that travel between the countries would resume in early 2022, towards the end of New Zealand’s vaccine roll-out.

Even then, requirements could include a vaccine passport, a pre-departure test and possibly a short stint in either managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) or self-isolation upon arrival, Hendy said.

The popped bubble has left some Kiwis pessimistic of getting back to New Zealand soon, unless they are prepared to chase a spot in the competitive MIQ system.

Kiwi Mark Butterfield and his wife Ali, who live in New South Wales, are desperate to bring their sons Archer, 7, and Finley, 5 to visit family in Christchurch, including grandparents they have not seen for more than two years.

Their plans to return this winter fell apart when the bubble snapped shut.

“We are not optimistic,” Ali Butterfield said. “We’ve pretty much given up on coming home for Christmas.

“Every time we had hopes of getting across, they were shattered. Whenever we’ve talked to the kids about coming to New Zealand, they get so excited, then it doesn’t happen and they get upset.”

New South Wales-based Mark and Ali Butterfield with their two boys, Archer, 7, left, and Finley, 5.

BEC BOND/Supplied

New South Wales-based Mark and Ali Butterfield with their two boys, Archer, 7, left, and Finley, 5.

Professor Nancy Baxter, an epidemiologist at the University of Melbourne, said a full travel bubble would only be possible if both countries were vaccinated and accepting of Covid-19 in the community.

“It’s hard to

Malaysia’s new prime minister says a regional travel bubble, including the ten members of the Association of Southeast-Asian Nations and China, would help business and tourism recover from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Malaysia is already planning to reopen its resort islands to domestic visitors next month and hopes to open the country to foreign tourists next year.

Ismail Sabri Yaakob said on Friday ASEAN and China should consider the cross-border travel bubble for fully vaccinated tourists.

“By doing this, we will be in a much better position to revive not only the tourism industry, but also our people-to-people connectivity,” he said.

Some industry insiders have poured cold water on the plan. Beijing has said there will be no outbound travel from China until after the second quarter of next year, news agencies reported.

“So far Singapore and Hong Kong have announced travel bubble four times and cancelled each, and finally its dead in the water,” said Bill Barnett a Phuket, Thailand-based hospitality, tourism and real estate advisor.

“Forget bubbles, the Sandbox from Phuket is proven to be a model that works. Vietnam has announced that Phu Quoc will have a similar programme in October for international vaccinated travellers so for now, it’s all about islands, not bubbles,” he said.

The Malaysian PM’s comments came in a pre-recorded speech for the opening of the China-ASEAN Expo and China-ASEAN Business and Investment Summit, held in Nanning, the capital of south China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

Malaysia’s prime minister said the plan would not just help the tourism industry but also help businesses by keeping supply chains flowing to provide essential goods and services.

“This is critical for small and medium enterprises, which form the backbone of our economy,” Ismail Sabri said.
ASEAN overtook the European Union as China’s largest trading partner last year.
The ASEAN-China travel bubble would only apply to travellers who have received at least two Covid-19 vaccinations. Ismail Sabri said ASEAN and China should work on the mutual recognition of vaccine certificates.

ASEAN consists of, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. It is set to join China, Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership next year, creating the world’s biggest trade zone, with tariffs cut by as much as 90 percent on most products.

 

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KOTA KINABALU: Inter-district travel bubble packages should be the focus of local tourism players as the state eased its restrictions for domestic tourism, says a Sabah minister.

State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Jafry Ariffin said tourism operators were now encouraged to work on tourism bubble programmes in the reopening of tourism activities.

He said his ministry will encourage tourism companies to develop bubbles between the inter-district areas.

“We will wait for them to put in their applications,” he said Saturday (Sept 11) when asked about the easing of tourism activities in the state under Phase Two of the National Recovery Plan (NRP).

He said most tour operators are keen to use the available travel bubble programmes but they will have to meet standard operating procedures (SOPs) before approvals are given.

He said there were three applications for the local travel bubble that are being considered so far.

Meanwhile, Sabah Association of Tour and Travel Agents (SATTA) president Datuk Seri Winston Liaw said the government should consider expanding the districts into bigger zones as done previously.

He said previously, Kota Kinabalu City, Penampang and Putatan districts as Zone One was expanded to include Kota Belud and Ranau.

“This would encourage movement among people and people will be more encouraged to travel.

“If it is allowed only within the districts, not many will be interested,” he said, adding that the concept of a travel bubble aimed at checking on the spread of Covid-19 could still be used if the state government introduced enlarged zones.

“People are likely to travel more if they are going out of their own districts,” he added.

On Friday (Sept 10), state Covid-19 spokesman Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun said tourism rules were being eased to help the industry.

Among the SOPs were for all operators, their staff and visitors to be fully vaccinated with hotels allowed to open their rooms for visitors from the same district.

Hotels previously were allowed to operate for quarantine purposes.

Sabah continues to record above 2,000 Covid-19 positive cases daily and all 27 districts remained classified in the red zone for the last one month.

NANNING: Malaysia has proposed a cross-border mechanism between Asean and China that introduces a travel bubble and quarantine arrangement to revive the economy.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said recognising the vaccination certificates issued by the countries was also another area for consideration.

“By removing unnecessary barriers to trade and by rolling back on new restrictive trade measures, we could place ourselves on a steady path for economic recovery and growth.

“As such, we will be in a much better position to revive not only the tourism industry but also our people-to-people connectivity,” he said in a pre-recorded speech at the opening of the 18th China-Asean Expo (CAExpo) and China-Asean Business and Investment Summit here yesterday.

“Cross-border travel bubble is vital for recovery. We have to strive to keep the supply chain connectivity uninterrupted and to facilitate the movement of essential goods and services.

“This is critical for small and medium enterprises (SMEs), which form the backbone of our economy,” he said.

Ismail Sabri also called for Asean and its partners to intensify open trade and investment while strengthening the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

Business message: The audience listening to Ismail Sabri’s pre-recorded speech during the opening ceremony in Nanning.

RCEP is a free trade agreement signed in November last year by the 10 Asean members, Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea after eight years of negotiations.

“This has demonstrated that we are committed to the transnational supply chains and keeping markets open amid the ravages of a global pandemic.

“RCEP provides immense opportunities to bolster regional supply chains and for businesses to diversify production networks.

“As we transform adversity into opportunity, this agreement will serve as an integral tool that helps us navigate our regions towards recovery and future growth,” he added.

As this year marks the 30th anniversary of the establishment of dialogue relations between Asean and China, Ismail Sabri said he was heartened to see the relations gaining strength over the years.

In 2020, China remained Malaysia’s largest export destination for the 12th consecutive year, with a total value of US$37.92bil (RM157.3bil), contributing to 16.2% of the country’s total export.

The annual CAExpo is the main Chinese exhibition participated by the Malaysian business community.

This year, 58 Malaysian companies are showcasing their products at the four-day event until Sept 13. The number was greatly reduced by over 300% last year due to cross-border restrictions and controls brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.