Citing the need to take bold steps to provide meaningful employment for local residents within the tourist industry, Sen. Ricardo S. Atalig has introduced legislation that would require all dive shop operators to hire at least one local resident as an instructor or dive master.
Senate Bill 11-117 cited latest figures from the Northern Marianas Dive Operators Association that Lau Lau Bay alone represents approximately $15 million in revenues from the scuba diving industry in the CNMI.
It also said that, on the average, divers visiting the CNMI spend more than any other sector of the tourist market and also represent the highest percentage of return visitors to the island.
According to Atalig, with the exception of a few local dive shops, the diving industry in the CNMI is set up to prevent active local participation.
“Other islands throughout the world have requirements to ensure that their local residents play an active role in their own tourist markets and I think it’s high time that we institute similar requirements,” the senator said.
In addition to the local hiring requirement, the bill states that in the absence of the availability of a local dive professional, dive shop operators shall institute an in-house training program that will allow to develop their own local dive professionals.
Atalig said this type of training program will allow dive shop operators to develop their own in-house local dive leaders. “As time progresses, this process will eventually eliminate their need to employ all contract workers as dive professionals,” he said.