Saipan dreaming of becoming the next Bali

How much do you know about Saipan? I’m tipping it’s about as much as I do.

How many of you have been to Bali? May I be bold and assume that half of you reading this are raising a hand?

According to Statista, Indonesia is the second most popular overseas destination for Australian residents in the year ending March 2020.

Bali is a favourite for young and old. Our friend Max Williams loves it. Reckons it’s unbeatable on a budget.

What’s not to like? Stunning scenery, beautiful beachfront restaurants, colourful culture, surf, sand, sun and a kaleidoscope of sites, sights and smells make Bali a truly unique destination.

Aussies keep going back, or at least they did until recently, but will again, someday. And the Balinese people, as always, will welcome them with open arms.

Or maybe Saipan will steal its thunder?

Read: New low-cost Bali airport

Saipan is a commonwealth of the USA and is the largest and most developed of the Northern Mariana Islands in the Western Pacific.

Its sandy shores, breathtaking beaches, mountainous landscapes, championship golf courses and hotel and resort rates similar to Bali make it possibly one of the Pacific’s best-kept secrets.

Saipan is also brimming with historical sites, says Visit USA, with ancient ruins and remnants including the wreck of a famous 17th century Spanish galleon and myriad World War Two memorials and remnants from one of the biggest campaigns in the Pacific.

It also holds the Guinness World Record for the most consistent temperature on Earth with a low of 19.6 degrees Celsius and high of 31.4 degrees Celsius.

Read: Indonesia’s ’10 new Balis’ project

It’s also already vaccinated 70 per cent of its population, just 10 per cent shy of herd immunity, according to the Saipan Tribune.

Sounds nice – and very close to being ready to accept tourists on its shores.

And Aussie aviation veteran Neil Hansford wants to get you there.

Mr Hansford reckons Saipan would be an obvious choice for COVID-safe travel – and soon.

His airline – Marianas Pacific – has been created specifically to fly to COVID-safe destinations, including Australia.

“No Australian health authority is going to allow travel to Bali any time soon, same with the Philippines. Australians are going to want to go somewhere that’s COVID-safe, and Saipan ticks all the boxes,” said Mr Hansford.

“It’s the same distance (from Brisbane) as Bali, it has the same quality of hotels, the same sort of resorts, better diving, English is the main language, and they’re in the same time zone as us.”

Read: Budge over Bali – Bintan is the new idyllic Indonesian island escape

The island is ideal for Aussie travellers, with a low crime rate, no “beggars” and similar food to Australia, Mr Hansford told The Australian.

Marijuana may be legal, but “they don’t drink Australian wine yet – we’d like to change that”, says Mr Hansford.

“There’s American wine and beer and plenty of nightlife but it’s a family place, not a cesspit,” he added.

The airline has the backing of the island’s governor, Ralph Torres, and hopes to operate Boeing 757s from Brisbane once a travel bubble can be established.

Have you been to Saipan? Would you go? Have you even heard of it? Why not share your thoughts on Saipan in the comments section below?

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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