What actions might be needed to jump start the tourism industry in Pohnpei?

I believe much has been said about this topic in the past. However, I'd like to bring it up again; so that we can have a new and fresh look at it again. I hope those who are in the know about this subject matter--would contribute to this discussion.

First, tour operators used to say that Pohnpei airport was too short for charter flights. Well, the airport was extended several years ago with financial assistance and technical assistance from Japan.

Second, others use to complain that there is not enough room. Well, there is a new couple of storey hotel building in town. We probably have over 300 rooms available--more or less--Cliff, Ocean View, the new Hotel, Joy and others.

So where do we go from here. The following are my suggestions:

1. If there is already a serious and comprehensive report on how to start the tourism industry in Pohnpei, I am asking anybody to let us know; so that we can read it and update it; or take some actions accordingly.

2. I am assuming that a complete and good report does not exist. As such, let me offer some ideas: a) a tourism market analyst should look at the resources that Pohnpei has to offer; and b) determine whether they could attract certain type of tourists from China or Korea or Japan or America or Europe or where.

3. The question is whether at least one charter flight could be arranged from either Japan, Korea or China per week? If we start with that assumption, what are the necessary actions to take in order to accomodate the planes requirements; and to accomodate the tourists; and make them occupied or happy or contented for at least 3 days; before they return home.

These are my initial comments and suggestions for now. Is it possible or not to have a modest number of tourists to come to Pohnpei consistently--every week--for a whole year at a time? If possible, then, we should go for it. Any other observations and suggestions would be appreciated.


  • To show how to promote Micronesian topics, I will take part in this discussion. But, this topic too is not Micronesian, per se. It involves concepts, industries, tourists, investors and funds from all around the globe. Anyway, here goes....

    The public could give the Pohnpei Visitors’ Bureau a big pay raise and a bigger round of applause. If not, then try the opposite or something else, but don’t do nothing and expect something. For example, the US national debt was doubled; the jobs were going over-seas; so the Americans tried a different approach to the problem. They elected a billionaire CEO instead of the customary career politician. Like the idiom goes, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” So they tried someone very different from your ordinary politician. Of course, the world is still full of insane people, who demand the usual approach to a growing problem. But that's another topic.

    Anyway, that is my two cents and I hope you would appreciate it, like you said that you would. There is much left unsaid about the complex issue of tourism. Other Micronesians should contribute in this discussion, rather than in those they detest.
  • So I heard that for Guam tourism, the Korean tourists are known to prefer smaller hotels, not the fancy big ones. And they also don't spend as much. On the other hand, the Japanese tourism prefer to stay in the large hotels; and do spend a lot per visitor. Whether this distinction is related to the tourist promoters who are linked the particular hotels, it'll be good to know. It's not good to make such generalizations. I don't know what can be said of the Chinese tourists or US tourists or Russian tourist.

    I think if we really want to try to develop Pohnpei tourism, we need, first of all, to understand such preferences of the different groups as tourism targets; and at the same time, we need to know if Pohnpei can provide what the particular group would find as contributing to their positive tourism experience. So this is the basic principle of business an marketing analysis; and is needed before we can begin to design the tourism program and promotion.

    So that is my first recommendation. Just some thoughts on this nice and noisy New Year's day--Jan. 1, 2019.
  • First and foremost Tourism critically require CLEANLINESS! Our Environment must be presentably clean without artificial rubbish. Our Air, Ocean, Rivers, streams, shores and riversides must be clean. Appropriate infrastructure must also be in place. Build it and they will come. We must invest heavily into advertisements locally and globally. Preserve our Customs and Traditions. Not what is happening today where the Tourist would come and see the traditional Leaders sitting infront in Western clothing. For Pohnpei this is what it needs for Tourism to move forward.
  • Did you say that we need clean up our environment and rake our yards? Well, I'll be damned! Trump was right all along!
  • So I am looking for a tourism study that shows and analyzes the "segmentation" of the potential tourism targets. Tourism, like any product lines--such as soft drink, beer, food products--could be more understood if a "marketing study" shows the segmentation of the potential market including desirable and undesirable behaviors; spending patterns; tolerance for long flights; desire for shopping vs. visiting cultural sites; duration of vacation days per different groups; what would constitute a happy tourist; etc., etc.

    Needless to say, once you understand your potential customers--it'll be easier to improve the sites where the tourists would visits; etc., etc.,. So the question is this: does Pohnpei have the basic assets that could be developed or improved--so that the different segments of the tourism population could be attracted to visit?
  • totally agree with you on the direct flight which probably FSMs best bet....but not too far away distance such as US or Europe, disagree with Chinese tourists but Japan is the closest 4.5 hrs flight and most viable and justified market with the best kind of tourists....don't need to overkill on the island don't fret on cleanliness, it'll come, its fine, development will boom when flight is established...
  • edited January 2019
    Tourism matters. Don’t count the US out. We have A LOT of eco-tourists who snorkel and dive. Does FSM have the logistical capability of handling 300 avid snorkelers and divers at a time? Protect the mangroves and reefs; without them you will be left with a deserted ocean.

    Is it possible to Charter a non-stop flight out of Los Angeles? If so then running ads in the diving and adventure magazines might allow you to fill those planes. Sundays out of LA and back on Saturdays would allow connections to be made to any destination in the US; with the folks leaving their offices on a Friday and returning to work on a Monday. Perhaps use the planes for domestic flights during the week. Does Yap and Chuck have airports large enough to handle those kinds of aircraft?

    Beyond tourism: FSM has one of the largest exclusive economic zones on the planet.
    I can imagine as a small country your fish and ocean resources are being exploited with very little return to FSM itself. The fishing boats should be flagged in FSM. The workers on the boats should be Micronesian, the processing plants should be Micronesian; and those ocean resources should be closely monitored and aggressively protected. I know how this world works; I am confident you are receiving a few pennies on the dollar of economic return.

    What percentage of capital outflow is represented in diesel fuel imports for energy production? Given topography and climate that is about as big a waste as I can imagine. Given your cost of energy; tidal, solar, and wind could be gold plated and still be more profitable than diesel generation. But more imporantly it would stem the hemorage of capital those imports represent.
    Capitalize your own banks and businesses. That single action would probably be the second most effective way in stemming capital outflow and encouraging capital formation.
    Invest locally and use reinvestment to grow; it is the only way you will be free; and that matters.
  • So, yes, US divers is just one segment of the possible many segments of the tourism market. I am assuming this segment, if you look at it closely, will have its own characteristics and behavior and spending patterns that would be very different from other segments such as tourists from China or Korea or Japan, etc.

    The question is what kinds of assets or attractions does Pohnpei have--or that can be developed--to cater to this segment of the tourism industry.

    First, is the cost: there are closer destinations such as Belize, the Carribean islands, etc. which will cost less, in terms of airline costs, to visit compared to the price of the tickets to Pohnpei and back.

    Second, what about the attractions for tourists: will the US-based divers be willing to bypass Hawaii and its other islands--to come to Pohnpei. Do we have such hot diving spots in Pohnpei to compete with other diver destinations? I think it's limited.

    These and more are some of the items in the list to be evaluated if were we to try to focus on this segment of the market. It is doable but we need to make a good case as to why the US-based divers would be attracted to come to Pohnpei and not other less expensive and accessible destinations that have more to offer.

    I don't want to sound negative. American divers have a lot of money to spend compared to other segments of the tourism population so it should be seriously considered. It'll be good to hear from marketing experts regarding this segment and as to whether or not, it should be the focus of the Pohnpei tourism promotion drive. Just some ideas.

  • Has anybody considered cruise-lines. I hate traveling in airplanes for long durations.
  • A service based economy would certainly not be a first choice.

    “First, is the cost: there are closer destinations such as Belize, the Carribean islands, etc. which will cost less, in terms of airline costs, to visit compared to the price of the tickets to Pohnpei and back.”

    The South Pacific has multiple times the number of fauna and flora species than the Caribbean Basin.

    “-----Do we have such hot diving spots in Pohnpei to compete with other diver destinations ----“

    I thought Pohnpei had healthy coral reefs and good water clarity. That is the only attraction needed to attract divers and snorkelers from around the world. Has the entire planet been trawled with bottom nets? I was hoping a few spots were missed. Flora and Fauna is what the world wants to experience; it is that simple. Unfortunately the density of both flora and fauna in our oceans is rapidly decreasing.

    “It'll be good to hear from marketing experts regarding this segment and as to whether or not, it should be the focus of the Pohnpei tourism promotion drive. Just some ideas.”

    If there are healthy coral reefs with large numbers of fish then imagine a market where the product is exposure to the most species of flora and fauna on the planet. It sounds foolish to use scarce capital to hire marketing experts for such a rare market. That is like saying you don’t know what you have in your hands.
  • We will never have a tourist industry until we stop trashing our own lands and waters....and depending on foreign volunteers to clean up after us. Tourists will not spend thousands of dollars to vacation on trash dumps. https://www.dvidshub.net/news/306254/naval-mobile-construction-battalion-1-and-volunteers-help-keep-pohnpei-clean
  • one article cannot dictate a opportunity to develop an industry and better yet put your hopes up FM....once the industry is developed through establishment of direct flights, and development of support services, the issue of trash and ugliness will go away at the same time...
  • keep going fsmers, please don't let trump related dominate in here
  • keep going fsmers, please don't let trump related dominate in here
  • Casinos have been built in many places around the world....and most of them have failed. (Just ask Donald Trump about his failed, bankrupt casino projects.)

    Pohnpei will never be able to compete with the highly sophisticated and highly profitable casinos in places like Las Vegas, Macau, Hong Kong, Monaco, London, etc.

    A tourist attraction unique to Pohnpei is Nan Madol, a United Nations World Heritage site. But until it is restored and maintained, made more accessible to visitors of all ages, and supported with world class tour guides, lodging, and restaurants, not many people will spend thousands of dollars to visit the place.
  • So if casino is out, what is it that might attract Chinese or other gamblers to Pohnpei? I don't see any.

    Cruise liners is one possible ways to bring tourists in. But I don't think somebody will deliberately get on a cruise-liner with Pohnpei destination solely in mind. What we can do is for our tourism promoters to contact the cruiseliner operators that pass thru our waters--so they can make a scheduled stop on Pohnpei port for a couple of days. I heard that some of these cruise-lines go to Guam or Saipan and other destinations in our neighborhood. So it might be possible to find ways to get them to stop, more often, or on a regular basis at Pohnpei port.

    What about Korean visitors or Japanese visitors? We do have some Japanese visitors that come thru on a more regular basis. There are Japanese-speaking local tour operators who are equipped to hold Japanese tourists--if or when they come.

    But I am beginning to think that we need to approach the development of the Pohnpei tourism in a slightly different way. I don't think our own government agencies and employees--who are tasked to promote and attract tourists--can do the job. It's not that they are not qualified. It's just the way the mass tourism market work.

    If we want to bring in, say, 200 to 300 tourists to Pohnpei on a charter flight, I think we need to have the involvement of tour packagers or tour promoters--located where the possible tourists are.

    The promoters will be the ones to advertise the tour packages; arrange for flights when there are about 200 to 300 interested tourists. They can facilitate and make bookings with the local Pohnpei hotel from their offices in Japan or S. Korea; and even plan out, example, a 3-day package. The tour operators are the ones who know the needs and desires of different tourists group. So they will be the ones who we can depend on the make the arrangements.

    It may mean that our governments will need to find partners who are tour operators; and pay them certain amount plus commission in order for them to sell Pohnpei as destination.

    I think tourists visiting out-o- the-way places like Pohnpei would like to be dealing with reliable and trustworthy tour operators--for their safety and for assurance about the value of their vacations.

    So I don't know what assets or attractions(?) are there in Pohnpei to attract a certain group. We still need to conduct tourist marketing studies, the segmentation of the market. In the end, we want some sort of tourist profiles as per different countries as segmented by age group, family group, environmental study group, historical study group, divers group, etc., etc.

    In short, I think we need to develop working relationship and compensation package agreement with tourist promoters. We need to bring some of them to Pohnpei to look at our assets; and advice us on how to improve Pohnpei; so that future tourists will be satisfied once they get here. Just some thoughts.
  • Besides the Nan Madol World Heritage site, FSM has spectacular sport fishing and scuba diving to attract tourists.

    WWII artifacts and shipwrecks can also attract both Japanese and American families with WWII historical connections.

    And yes, we need experienced tourism industry professionals to propose marketing strategies for possible implementation....IF the people and the government are really serious about tourism, that is.

    So far, I haven't seem much evidence of serious interest, sad to say.

  • Good point, FsmissuesMatter
  • FM, I agree that FSM has many attractions that could draw tourists to visit. But for business strategy, I think the government officials who are responsible for tourism policies should really work with professionals--so that the different FSM states' attractions will be identified and amplified--for the purpose of differentiating each one as a unique destination in itself. I say this because when we say FSM, it means a large region; so it'll be difficult for tourist to be able to visit all the destinations in the FSM.

    So, let's say that a typical tourist--from Japan, S. Korea, US, Europe, Russia, etc.,--has only 3 days for vacation. How do we attract those kinds of visitors to a particular destination. I would say that we should assume that these tourists with only 3-day vacation time will only be going to one destination--whether it's Pohnpei or Chuuk or Yap or Kosrae--in the case of the FSM. Of course, other competing destinations for the 3-day vacationers are Hawaii, Guam, Palau, Saipan, RMI and other nearby locations.

    So for the FSM, we need to define the potential destinations within the FSM. We can say that Pohnpei is unique because of its Nan Madol ruins plus its diving spots. Chuuk is unique because of the World War II wrecks. Yap is unique because of its traditional money and its sting ray alley. Also, Kosrae has its own ruins and special forests, etc.

    In short, we need to understand, on one hand, the tourists profiles and segmentation; so we can target the different segments--in order to lure them to the spectacular and unique attractions within each of the FSM states. On the other hand, we need to define our destinations in a way that they will attract the different segments of the tourism population. Just some thoughts but I am sure these are already well understood by government officials responsible for tourism development and promotion. Hope so.

  • Of the three Freely Associated States, only Palau has a thriving tourist industry.

    Both the FSM and the RMI would be wise to learn from the ROP how to effectively attract tourists.

    In the meantime, fisheries remain our only significant income-producing industry....and that income will continue to fluctuate annually due to tuna migration and global warming.
  • Marc,
    I learn much on tourism from your comments, but I sometimes feel you are leap frogging. I think Factsmatter pointed out a problem which is the lack of "serious interest." Shouldn't we address this problem first? Does anyone know why Micronesians, excluding Belauans and Chamorros, lack the motivation to develop their tourism industry? For example, lack of physical fitness, low energy, or maybe poor diet is to blame. Too much substance abuse maybe? Too content with no dreams or visions for greatness? Too lazy? Don't want to change lifestyle or develop self? Land's too sacred to be developed or discussed? Bored of same old leadership? Not enough public lands like in Koror and the Marianas?

    Are Micronesians really free men and women? If so, then why are we not "seriously interested" in building up our tourism, economy and country? Maybe we just don't like tourists and want to be left alone, like most conquered peoples living in injun reservations. Or maybe we dread the ecological, cultural, and economical impacts of tourism. Anyway, I think we should also consider the public's opinions, especially the local communities' and land owners,' when planning these ventures. Because everyone will be impacted.
  • z, yes, you are making a lot of good points. I am hoping that by engaging in serious discussions about Pohnpei tourism, we can come to some conclusions; and some answers to questions which you have raised. I don't want to believe that Pohnpeians are lazy or don't want development thru tourism. But I also don't have an answer as to how to develop tourism in Pohnpei--to a level similar to Palau or Guam, etc.

    Maybe some of the reasons that you say are correct. But I am not sold yet on the idea that we are the cause of our own problem--our attitude, our way of life, low energy, etc.

    In the end, it might prove that tourism--in the volume comparable to Palau or Guam--simply cannot occur in Pohnpei for the following reasons which have been mentioned by different people--some in this Forum, etc.

    Pohnpei does not have the beaches that attract family-type tourists. Pohnpei is too far out of the way; so it'll take many vacation hours spent on the plane; so it does not attract people with only 3-day vacation. Pohnpei does not have large shopping centers such as those in Guam (Walmart, Duty-Free, etc). While Nan Madol is one of the best place in the world to visit, it would only take probably a couple of hours to make a tour to Nan Madol; and what do you do after that.

    Another problem that I see is restrictions for hiring quality service people, such as workers from the Philippines, to come work in Pohnpei. It is difficult to recruit these workers because they also have to get US visa just to transit thru Guam a couple of hours in order to go to Pohnpei.

    In contrast, Palau has good beaches although you have take boats to the nice rock island beaches. But some of the hotels in Koror have built artificial beaches by the hotels to cater to their tourism customers. The population of Palau is small; so the number of Palauans working for tourism is small. Most of the service workers such as waitress at restaurants, cooks, etc, are from the Philippines. And it's easy for Palau to bring in workers from PI because they don't have to go thru Guam--so they don't need to apply for visa which is costly as well as time consuming. Most importantly, Palau has been able to maintain its clean environment which is appreciated by the tourists.

    So should Pohnpei give up on tourism because it does have the same assets and attractions as Palau or Guam? At some point in time, the leadership has to decide. I would say that we still need experts on tourism development and marketing and promotion to visit Pohnpei under contract with the Pohnpei State or with the FSM. They still need to do assessments of our assets and attraction sites. They need to help us figure as to whether or not our assets and attractions can be good enough to attract a certain segment of the tourism population.

    We don't have to have mass tourism although the airport has been extended to accommodate charter flights. We might be able to focus on smaller number of visitors; and then, build from there. We'll see.

  • Does anyone know why Air Niugini and Air Nauru do not want to land in Guam? Only Japanese, Chinese, Taiwanese, South Korean, and Philippines airlines like to land in Guam. Why is this? Anyone know why Air Niugini and Air Nauru hate Guam so much?
  • edited January 2019
    Disregard everything that you are talking about with regards to tourism in the FSM. Let us explore this question instead. Why does the US Government allow Japanese, Chinese, South Korean, Taiwanese, and Philippine airlines to land in Guam but not Air Niugini and Air Nauru? Is it because the pilots have curly hair? Why is this?
  • I think any airline that wants to fly to any country must be able to meet that country's standard. In order to fly to Guam or Honolulu, the aircraft must meet US safety standard; pilots must meet training and retraining requirements. The airline must also have an office and crew at the airport; to service the plane and customers. It probably can contract other airlines to provide these services at the beginning.

    It also probably need to lease or own those ramp walkway that are moved to connect to the plane once in place; for customers to work thru to the airport--unless you have a small aircraft which only requires customer to exit the plane; and walk on the airport open air to the building. The 2 airlines that you are talking about probably don't have the volume of customers to Guam--to be able to invest on the required infrastructure. It probably does not have enough revenue to meet insurance requirements.

    Lastly, I am sure the business competition from United or other more established US carrier will always be a factor. I heard that United--like the Continental before it-- keeps reducing its ticket prices whenever Air Nauru tried to have flights to Guam or other destinations in Micronesia-in order to undercut Air Nauru's attempt to get a foothold of the Guam market.

    So I am sure it has nothing to do with "curly hair" but more on stiff competition; as there are other "curly hair" pilots in United and other carriers that come to Guam.
  • marc,

    Air Niugini has been trying to get landing rights into Guam since 1970s. However, for some strange reason, the US Government never grants them landing rights, despite the fact that it grants landing rights to Asian country airlines from Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, China, and Philippines.

    What would be the reason for not granting landing rights to Air Niugini? Please tell us because I think you already know this.
  • We just need to justify why should a tourist fly over Guam and Hawaii to come to FSM. Once we can get that traveler to FSM, we will have tourist.
  • Good question. I think some smart person--with practical experience in tourism program planning and strategizing--might be able to provide some answers. Or, it'll be a combination of experts in business development and marketing strategies; or some people from Japan or S. Korea who actually have real life experience with packaging tours from their countries to Pacific islands nations such as Guam, Hawaii, CNMI. People with such expertise could be paid as consultant--to put some of their recommendations together to answer the question above.
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