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MVA board looks into ‘bubble travel’ and US tourism market

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 Marianas Visitors Authority board and management discussed  the feasibility of “bubble travel” and offering tour packages to U.S.-based tourists.

MVA acting board chairwoman Gloria C. Cavanagh told Variety that for bubble travel, “we are definitely working on [South] Korea to start it off, but as far as definite plans — we are not ready yet.”

In a travel bubble, jurisdictions or countries believed to have controlled the spread of Covid-19 allow travel without long quarantines between their citizens.

But Cavanagh said it will take more than MVA to prepare for the implementation of a travel bubble agreement with South Korea.

“There should be coordination with the executive branch, the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. and the governor’s Covid-19 Task Force,” she added.

December was supposed to be the target date for bubble travel, but “new developments have changed our plans a little bit,” Cavanagh said, referring to the imposition of stricter social distancing rules in Seoul, South Korea and the promising news about a Covid vaccine.

Cavanagh said MVA has also asked its members to submit their safety plans and protocols if they are interested in participating in bubble travel.

 

The Marianas Visitors Authority board members and management officials meet on Tuesday. Photo by Bryan Manabat

“The plans should be the same as those submitted to CHCC by restaurants, but in an expanded form to include hotel accommodations, ground transportation, and tour options,” she said.

These plans will be sent  to the governor’s Covid-19 Task Force for approval, she added. The goal is to create an industry-standard set of guidelines for bubble travel visitors, Cavanagh said.

The guidelines will include screening visitors at the border and separating them from the public for a few days or until CHCC decides it is safe for them to be out of the hotel of their choosing, she added.

“The most important thing is to protect the community —  that is why [travel bubble] is taking longer than we want. We have to make sure that the public is protected. CHCC and the Covid-19 Task Force have done a wonderful job in protecting our community, so we need to ensure that protection is continued,”  Cavanagh said.

U.S. tourism market

MVA board member Chris Nelson, for his part, said he has seen an advertisement for Maldives that offers a year’s worth of “unlimited stay” in 2021 for $30,000.

Nelson asked his fellow board members “if this is something we can look into.”

He added, “I kind of thought, when I saw the Maldives advertisement that maybe we should think about  finding long-term tourists by getting a monthly rate for hotels here. We have an amazing destination — we have diving, golf courses, sport fishing and other activities.”

Nelson said the CNMI should find out “if we can attract a few hundred or a few thousands [from the U.S.] to come out here to work remotely and stay in the hotels, and go to the process that we will create for bubble travel…. We won’t need to change our protocols, and we don’t need to ask [the U.S] government to change its protocols for people returning to the [U.S.] because the United States has a system in place already…. The idea is to consider [the possibility of] attracting people from North America to come and live here for [an extended period of time].”

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