The governments of South Korea and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marian Islands have officially launched a travel bubble between the two nations aimed at boosting tourism to the Pacific territory.
The travel bubble, formally agreed on Wednesday and in effect as of Thursday, will allow fully vaccinated nationals, foreign nationals and permanent residents to travel between the two countries provided they have received their final COVID-19 vaccine dose at least two weeks prior to departure and a present a negative COVID-19 test acquired within the previous three days. The vaccine must also be approved by both governments, with Pfizer, Moderna, Janseen and AstraZeneca all acceptable.
The flights, serving group tours between Seoul Incheon International Airport and Saipan International Airport, must be direct and conducted by their respective national carriers.
Marianas Visitors Authority chairman Viola Alepuyo said, “Because of the CNMI’s Level 1 designation by the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], the high number of vaccinated community members and it being lauded as one of the safest places during this worldwide pandemic, the Korean government chose the CNMI as the first destination to enter into a travel bubble arrangement.
“The agreement … is the biggest step forward in rebooting the CNMI tourism industry. This travel bubble is the bridge we need for Korea travelers choosing our destination as tourism resumes worldwide.”
While the boost to tourism is positive news for the CNMI, it will do little to aid Saipan’s troubled casino operator, Imperial Pacific International, which recently had its casino license for Imperial Palace • Saipan suspended.
The casino at Imperial Palace • Saipan had already been closed since March 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.