The Marianas Visitors Authority board of directors last week re-elected by acclimation Marian Aldan-Pierce as chairman of the islands’ tourism body.
Aldan-Pierce, who is president of DFS Galleria, along with Vicente M. Calvo and Emma Villagomez, were confirmed by the Senate to serve the board anew last month after Gov. Eloy S. Inos renominated them in August.
Also elected during Monday’s MVA reorganization were James Nelson of Docomo Pacific as vice chair, Calvo as treasurer, and Pacific Micronesia Tours Inc.’s Kazusuke Fukuju as secretary.
In her remarks during her confirmation hearing in September, Aldan-Pierce said the MVA has successfully capitalized in the emerging China market with the opening of two representative offices in Beijing and Shanghai.
“As a result, visitor arrivals from China alone have increased 42 percent to over 100,000 this fiscal year, compared to last. Through our market diversification strategies, visitors from Japan, Korea, and China now comprise about 30 percent each of our market mix, which help keep us from being over-dependent on a single market. Although small in number, the lucrative market of Russia has also nearly doubled to over 10,000 visitors so far this fiscal year.”
She thanked the Senate as well as the House of Representative and the Executive Branch for working closely with the MVA and Hotel Association of the Northern Marianas Islands on the 5 percent hotel occupancy tax increase implemented this year.
“A majority of this funding is going to increase marketing, as MVA’s primary job is to promote the islands. In this regard, we continue to promote the Northern Marianas as one destination with three distinct islands.”
For instance, Aldan-Pierce said Russian television crews and high-end print media were on Tinian and Rota in August to film local cultural life, attractions, and food that will air nationwide in Russia and bring more than $40 million in advertising exposure.
In July, the Korean television show “Final Adventure” filmed three episodes on Tinian, also worth millions in exposure.
“A China media and travel agent familiarization tour of Rota and Tinian in June emphasized the creation of tour packages for these two islands. Of course, Saipan also receives a number of familiarization tours through the year, which the MVA and its members support either financially or logistically.”
A portion of the hotel occupancy tax increase will be used on several projects that MVA’s destination enhancement committee has identified, starting with safety signage at the Grotto and Obyan Beach and the renovation of the train engine at Sugar King Park, which have both been completed. She said similar renovations on the two train engines on Rota are in the works.
She said a trial two-month security and ranger service at the bottom of Grotto is also being conducted to enforce the statutes of Coastal Resources Management and Division of Fish & Wildlife and to enhance safety at the site.
“We have also started to repair the railings at Bird Island Lookout and Banzai Cliff. The Mt. Tapochao Enhancement Project completed in February still requires minor ground surface work to level out the unpaved path leading to the viewing deck, as well as some backfilling.”
Another project that’s paying dividends is MVA’s Beautify My Marianas campaign, according to Aldan-Pierce.
“We continue to offer $100 per mile for cleanups by schools and non-profit groups on all three islands. We are also accessing other tourist sites on Tinian and Rota for possible enhancement, and other projects are being prioritized by the committee,” she said.