CNMI Lawmaker Calls For 'New Ideas' From Marianas Visitors Authority

New activities should be developed; Tinian, Rota should be promoted more: Guerrero

By Junhan B. Todiño

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Jan. 24, 2017) – The Marianas Visitors Authority should come up with “new ideas” to further boost the tourism industry, said Rep. Joseph Leepan T. Guerrero, who chairs the House Committee on Commerce and Tourism.

“If you have the same activities every year and you don’t improve them, you know what will happen to those who visit — we’re not going to see these people come back again,” he told Variety.

In order for MVA to move forward, he said, they should be “proactive” and develop new activities on island.

Guerrero said MVA should also include Rota and Tinian in its tourism promotion.

“If we want tourism to thrive in the CNMI we've got to include our neighboring islands,” he added.

But MVA Managing Director Christopher Concepcion said they are promoting Rota and Tinian in all offshore markets including Japan, Korea, China, Taiwan, Russia and the Philippines.

“We do this through destination exposure with media and travel agent familiarization or fam trips sponsored by MVA, plus other traditional and contemporary marketing methods,” he said.

“These fam trips bring in millions of dollars worth of exposure which we simply cannot afford.”

He said they also host several signature events on both Rota and Tinian to encourage tourists to visit those islands.

In addition, “we are undergoing several destination enhancement projects on all islands to beautify and enhance the overall appeal of these islands. We work closely with the mayors on Tinian and Rota.”

But Concepcion said Tinian has no resort hotel operating now which is a major hindrance in attracting any sizable number of visitors there.

Guerrero said there should be a master plan that includes the development on Rota and Tinian as tourist destinations.

“Without a master plan we will continue to struggle getting tourists to visit Rota and Tinian,” he added.

Guerrero said he supports MVA and is ready to offer any assistance to the tourism agency.

He said he once mentioned to MVA the possibility of floating a $100 million bond to fund a CNMI-wide tourism enhancement program as part of a master plan.

“Ideally you continue to grow the industry,” he added. “Let’s not wait for another calamity that will pop the bubble — and then what?”

For his part, Concepcion said charter flights to Rota and Tinian have been discussed with industry partners, but most are discouraged by the limited and deteriorating airport facilities, and are restrained by the lack of Custom and Border Protection officers on Rota and Tinian which is a requirement for all incoming international flights to the CNMI.

He said that neither island has a fuel farm for aircraft refueling.

“Rota has a [Transportation Security Administration] presence, but Tinian does not. These are factors beyond the control of MVA,” he said.

In his meetings with tourism industry professionals in Korea, China and Japan, Concepcion said the one thing that keeps popping up was the lack of reliable, steady, and larger transportation means between Saipan and Tinian and Rota.

For Tinian in particular, he said there have been repeated inquiries regarding ferry transportation from Saipan, specifically vehicle-ferries, to enable tourists and residents from Saipan to take their vehicles onboard, spend the day or more in Tinian or Rota, and help spread some of the revenue being produced in Saipan to the sister islands in the south, he said.

Concepcion said MVA felt that was a strong way to help the economies of Tinian and Rota.

“Of course this takes private investment to occur and possibly some public subsidy in the beginning to help it get on track until it becomes sustainable and profitable,” he said.

He said they encouraged their partners at the Commonwealth Development Authority and the Commonwealth Ports Authority to look into ways to help stimulate such investments in the CNMI.

“MVA is ready to help promote and market this attraction to tourists who visit the Marianas should this type of investment take place,” he said.

“At the end of the day, there is no Rota tourism industry or Tinian tourism industry or Saipan tourism industry. There is only one CNMI tourism industry and MVA will continue to equally promote all three islands to all potential visitors abroad,” he said.

Concepcion said MVA is aware that Tinian and Rota are unique, and the agency’s mandate is to market and promote the CNMI.

But it would take private investment in hotels, airlines and for-profit attractions to entice visitors to choose the CNMI over other destinations, he said.

“It’s not the job of MVA or the government to make these investments. And it takes laws, incentive programs and flexible regulations to appeal to foreign investors looking for a place to spend and make money.”

Marianas Variety
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