CNMI Visitors Authority Should Explore Potential Of Rota, Tinian: Board Member

Lack of transport options shouldn't prevent improving tourism destinations

By Junhan B. Todiño

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Oct. 28, 2016) – The Marianas Visitors Authority should look into the potential of Rota and Tinian as tourist destinations, MVA board member Jerry Tan said.

He asked MVA Managing Director Chris Concepcion to come up with a master plan for destination and enhancement programs for the two islands.

The lack of transportation available to Rota and Tinian should not be a reason for excluding them from MVA’s destination and enhancement program, Tan said.

“Let’s start doing some of the basic stuff we have to do. I don’t think we should blame anyone and say that because there’s no air service therefore we don’t make the destination better. Let’s make the destination better,” Tan said during a board meeting on Thursday.

“What should the direction of MVA be in the next three to five years?” Tan asked. He noted that Saipan is already enjoying the benefits of the tourism industry while Rota and Tinian remain in “depressed” conditions.

He said the CNMI should develop the two islands just as Hawaii’s state government is doing to improve its other islands.

Under its destination and enhancement program, he added, MVA has been doing lots of repair work at tourist sites.

But MVA should also create new attractions, Tan said.

“If you are serious about making it happen for Tinian and Rota, it will make the NMI a better destination. We are competing with Guam.”

MVA can offer a three-island package to, for example, attract tourists from Russia and China who usually spend at least seven days on island, he said.

Tan, whose group of companies owns several hotels on Saipan, said what MVA has been doing over the last few years to develop the island should also be done on Rota and Tinian.

“We need to help the other two islands because if they are successful it will make the overall destination much more competitive and more attractive.”

Tan encouraged MVA to invest in Rota and Tinian. When this happens, he added, travel agencies will be more committed in promoting those islands.

“We have the funding, but we don’t invest enough on those two islands so we need to start engaging and having more dialogue with the airlines,” he said, adding that the airlines are looking at what MVA is doing to make the islands more appealing to tourists.

MVA board chair Marian Aldan-Pierce agreed and said developing Rota and Tinian as tourist destinations will be good for the entire CNMI.

MVA, she added, should also look into local tourists, especially for Rota and Tinian destinations.

MVA Managing Director Chris Concepcion, said they have set aside $20,000 for the Rota and Tinian destination enhancement program.

He said they will also draw up a master plan that will include Rota and Tinian, and probably even the Northern Islands.

“I would say that Tinian and Rota are integral parts of our marketing effort, and we should emphasize those islands when we market the CNMI overseas,” he said.

MVA board member Vince Calvo, who represents Rota, said he is grateful that Tan is also for the development of Rota and Tinian.

Calvo said MVA should confer with the small-time hotel operators on both islands to get their perspectives on what to include in a destination and enhancement program.

Concepcion said MVA already has a list of tourist sites, including potential ones, that can be developed on Rota.

Variety was told that since 2013, Rota and Tinian have been getting $200,000 each for tourism. The funding comes from hotel occupancy tax collections.

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