[photopress:Saipan.jpg,full,alignright]Saipan is one of the most difficult destinations to classify. It provides an entry point to the whole of Micronesia. It is the largest island and capital of the United States Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands which has an odd, and sometimes, difficult, relationship with the United States itself.
It is to the north of Guam which has tried, pretty much unsuccessfully, for years to become a tourist destination.
Saipan is an entry point to Micronesia and you would think it would be ever on the up and up. In fact, it does not work that way. Last month’s tourist arrivals declined by 22%, which is the lowest, but not the only, dip in the first nine months of fiscal year 2007.
Every time you think of spending time in Saipan you are put off by the quite amazing prices for simple necessities.
Go there on a visit to government officials from an airline thinking of flying direct – the writer has – and you are welcomed as the head of the Cargo Cult, a latter day John Frum. Yet, in the end, the figures work against you.
Yes, there is the skin diving of the Truk Lagoon, the fascination of Tinian, the offshore coral reef. And a lot of hotels catering, in the main, to Japanese visitors. But it is an expensive package to sell. The figures, in the end, do not add up.
Now, in Saipan, the Commonwealth Ports Authority is saying it has received no feedback yet as to the launching of Air China’s proposed scheduled flights between Beijing and Saipan.
CPA acting executive director Stanley Torres Jr. said, ‘There’s nothing yet. We haven’t heard of the schedule to Saipan. We’re going to follow up on that.’
Air China filed its application with the federal agency in the United States – Saipan is mostly run from there – on May 31, 2007.
The application stated that Air China wanted to operate two nonstop flights a week between Saipan and Beijing, beginning July 15, 2007. The story was that Air China planned to operate the initial service with Boeing 777-200 aircraft, which has passenger seating for 305 or up to 440.
If it happens, Beijing will be the third city in China to have direct flights to the Northern Marianas, after Guangzhou and Shanghai.
Will it happen? Perhaps. Possibly. Maybe. But if and when it does it will be on a one year test basis. Then the wait will be to see whether it will be renewed. Past experience suggests that is a problem.
Source: Saipan Tribune