Guam Hotel and Restaurant Association president Mary Torre Rhodes is encouraging the islands’ youth to consider joining the CNMI’s tourism industry once they decide to enter the local workforce.
Rhodes served as keynote speaker of Wednesday’s Tourism Summit held at the Saipan World Resort.
The event was organized by the Marianas Tourism Education Council and the Marianas Youth Welcome All Visitors Enthusiastically, or MY WAVE, and saw the attendance of over 300 members of MY WAVE clubs from 10 elementary, junior high, and high schools on Saipan.
In her presentation, Rhodes said today is as good as any to dive into the local tourism industry. Compared to other regions, tourism is booming in the Marianas.
For instance, the tourism industry’s growth is 17.4 percent in the CNMI and 14 percent in Guam, while internationally tourism has grown only 5 percent and just 7 percent in Asia.
Rhodes said the CNMI has a bright future in tourism and based on the CNMI’s Gross Domestic Product, it can contribute more.
She said that compared to Guam, where tourism is 60 percent of the U.S. territory’s GDP, the tourism industry only accounts for 28 percent of the CNMI’s GDP.
She also emphasized the potential of the islands’ youth to enter the local workforce because more than 12,000 jobs will be available in the CNMI by the end of 2014, with the expiration of the CW-2 program. She said it is up to the islands’ youth to fill those positions, some of which are tourism-related.
“Tourism is made up of more than just a hotel. There’s transportation and private businesses like restaurants and gift shops,” she said.
Rhodes also spoke about the Commonwealth’s pristine beauty vis-à-vis tourist sites in Guam and the effort residents put forth in keeping it clean.
“The CNMI’s national park and the local parks are beautiful here and Guam is always envious of what you have here on Saipan. You have a very beautiful island and you guys are very mindful of keeping it clean. Saipan residents are doing a good job in making sure the islands remain beautiful.”
Rhodes urged everyone in attendance to keep up with what they are doing and to continue to make the Commonwealth a desirable destination for Japanese, Korean, Chinese, and Russian, tourists.
“We should all welcome visitors enthusiastically. Everybody should do their part because tourism is indeed everybody’s business.”
After Rhodes’ talk, presentations were made by MY WAVE clubs from Saipan Southern High School and Hopwood Junior High School. Before breaking for lunch, the different MY WAVE clubs split into groups for some activities.