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.”