The Marianas Visitors Authority says there's been a massive increase in Russian tourists visiting the Marianas, from just a couple of hundred two years ago to an expected 11,500 for the 12 months ending this September.
The managing director of the Marians Visitors Authority, Perry Tenorio told Cathy Harper that's because it's recently become much easier for Russians to get flights to the CNMI.
Presenter: Cathy Harper
Speaker: Perry Tenorio the managing director of the Marianas Visitors Authority
PrimaryLocation :Marianas Islands
HARPER: Is it unusual that the United States would allow entry for Russian citizens to somewhere like the Marianas without a visa?
TENORIO: You know when we transitioned from the CNMI Immigration system to the US Immigration system, we argued the economic value of the Chinese and Russians visitors to the islands economy and we were able to argue successfully, and it's evident that the increase of Chinese and Russian visitors to the islands continue to greatly impact the economic activities here in the island.
HARPER: All right and because of this the government is thinking aboiut opening up a tourism office in Russia. When will it make a decision on that, do you know?
TENORIO: The board has recevied information regarding how much it would cost for us to open this office and we're still deliberating. Right now, we're in net fiscal year right now and so we're looking at the end of the fiscal year to make that decision and hopefully implement it early on into the fiscal year 2014 which starts October 1st, 2013. I know that sounds a little confusing.
HARPER: OK. So in the next year or so, you're hoping it will be open?
TENORIO: Hopefully, by the end of the year.
HARPER: Hnmn, and you say the Far East. Do you know where specifically?
TENORIO: Ah, we're still in negotiation with a representative company, probably home based in Vladavostok.
HARPER: Why do Russians come to the Marianas? What do they do?
TENORIO: I think more importantly accessiblity to the US, because we are part of the United States family, Number one. Number two it's just, we have surf, sand and beach here, and much to do shopping and they can stay here. They can come here without a visa I think is part of the most important draw.
HARPER: Gambling, is there much gambling?
TENORIO: Not to our knowledge, but they come here and enjoy the islands, what the island have to offer.
HARPER: All right. And how much would an office cost?
TENORIO: Well, we're looking at something a llittle less than $400,000 US.
HARPER: It doesn't sound like it would break the bank?
TENORIO: No, no, no, but it gets our foot in the door.