The CNMI has a huge potential in heritage tourism, according to Dr. Jennifer McKinnon of Flinders University in Australia.
“Heritage tourism is people coming to the island specifically for the history or coming to the island with interest in… going on visiting historical sites so it can generate money and funding,” explained McKinnon.
McKinnon, who is also the Director of Studies of the university’s Department of Archaeology, held a presentation on underwater historical trails at the American Memorial Park Friday night.
According to McKinnon, heritage tourism on Saipan can be developed through the various existing heritage trail sites.
“An indigenous heritage trail would be fantastic to capture the indigenous maritime lifeways that are on the island,” she told Saipan Tribune.
Since she started coming out to the CNMI in 2007, McKinnon said she has worked on some 25 to 30 underwater sites.
McKinnon described the underwater trail sites in the CNMI as “fantastic.”
“They’re great sites to visit. [But] there are impacts from people visiting the sites,” said McKinnon. Among the issues affecting these sites are anchor damage, human impact, erosion, and development.
McKinnon said looting of archaeological sites is an international problem, with illegal antiquities trade estimated as a $4-5 billion a year industry next to narcotics and arms.
She encouraged not just the divers but the public to take ownership of these sites and serve as its stewards by “keeping an eye” on these site and reporting infractions.
“They own [these sites]. They need to take care of them,” she added.