Almost 250 elementary, junior high, and high school students convened Tuesday, Oct. 30, at the Charley's Cabaret of the Pacific Islands Club Saipan for this year's MTEC/MY WAVE Tourism Summit, which emphasizes the dictum that “tourism is everybody's business.”
The summit, organized by the Marianas Tourism Education Council and school Marianas Youth Welcome All Visitors Enthusiastically, or MY WAVE, clubs, presented a number of guest speakers-including students-who challenged the participants to become actively engaged in the primary industry of the Northern Mariana Islands.
“I can't tell you how impressed I am that you young people are getting the opportunity to get together and listen to people in the tourism industry,” said Office of Insular Affairs Assistant Secretary Tony Babauta. “Everyone who is part of the tourism industry on Saipan should be proud of you.”
Babauta also emphasized the unique cultural characteristics of the Northern Marianas that set it apart from other beach resort destinations and encouraged the students to explore careers in the visitor industry.
“We are all capable of doing whatever it is we want to do. I have a little girl, and I always told her that she can be anything she wants and she can do whatever she wants to do, but she has to put the work into it,” he told students.
Dr. Miriam J.S. Leis, a strategic foresight analyst specializing in the interrelation of emerging technologies, innovation, society, politics, and future studies and has worked on projects for the European Commission, challenged students to think strategically about the industry and get personally involved with visitors.
“Keeping our island clean and safe, protecting our environment, and respecting other cultures and our own cultures.” Leis said. “When you go home, you can think about your ideas, and maybe share them with your teachers.”
Hopwood Jr. High School MY WAVE Club president Joana Garcia and vice president Crystal Lloren also shared their club's activities this school year.
“MY WAVE is truly important to the CNMI because it helps tourism, and tourism is the main source of cash in the islands,” said Lloren. “Our advisors care about our club, and it is one of the most active clubs in the school.”
Saipan Southern High MY WAVE Club president Bertran Palacios and treasurer Issac Tenorio, who have been MY WAVE Club members for four years, shared their experiences with other students and some suggestions to improve the visitors industry.
“Don't give tourists problems. Always treat them with respect,” said Tenorio.
The CNMI's representative to Congress, Delegate Gregorio Kilili Sablan (Ind-MP), addressed the group in the morning. MTEC board member and Northern Marianas College Business and Tourism instructor Larry Lee quizzed students on the Northern Marianas visitor industry. Rep. Edmund Villagomez (Cov-Saipan), chairman of the House Committee on Resources & Tourism, delivered welcoming remarks. Other MY WAVE Club presidents also gave abbreviated reports of their plans and activities.
“We extend our thanks to OIA, the Marianas Visitors Authority, and the Public School System for their support,” said MTEC chair Vicky Benavente. “Kids getting involved in tourism is where we start, and we hope to keep their interest about the tourism and hospitality industry going throughout their lives.”
Participating schools were San Antonio, Koblerville, W.S. Reyes, and Garapan elementary schools; Saipan Southern and Kagman high schools; and Chacha Oceanview and Hopwood junior high schools.
Entertainment was provided by Saipan Music and Dance Studio. This year's MTEC/MY WAVE Tourism Summit was funded by a grant from the OIA. Giveaways were also donated by DFS Saipan. (MTEC)