The Marianas Visitors Authority board unanimously elected Viola Alepuyo to be its new chair after former chair Marian Pierce-Aldan turned in her resignation at MVA’s regular board meeting last Tuesday.
In an interview with MVA managing director Priscilla Iakopo, she confirmed that the board unanimously voted for Alepuyo and that all board members were present, while Aldan-Pierce attended via Zoom.
Aside from Aldan-Pierce, other members present at the board meeting were Chris Nelson, Warren Villagomez, Ivan Quichocho, Thomas Liu, Aguida Quitugua, and Gloria Cavanagh.
In a later interview with Alepuyo, she said “the most important thing” right now when reopening tourism is keeping the community safe. “There’s a lot of moving parts here. There’s a lot of people involved in the resumption of tourism for CNMI to make sure that we succeed,” said Alepuyo.
She pointed out that many people are working hard to restart the tourism industry—not just among affected agencies here in the CNMI but also among overseas industry partners.
When asked about the challenges they expect to face in reopening tourism, Alepuyo said, “The devil is in the details.” While anyone can say they’re going to reopen tourism, how you go about it must be strategically planned, she added.
“There are a bunch of i’s to dot and t’s to cross. We have to do it in compliance with the laws in the CNMI in conjunction with destination partners. Fortunately, we have a lot of industry partners who are very capable and motivated to get it done,” said Alepuyo.
Along with MVA, all offshore MVA offices, whether in Korea or Japan, are assisting the CNMI in helping tourism resume, Alepuyo said.
Alepuyo echoed Iakopo that MVA is working with the Torres-Palacios administration, MVA management and staff, the task force under the Tourism Resumption Investment Program, or TRIP, and other tourism related stakeholders for the planned resumption of tourism in the CNMI. TRIP is led by the Commonwealth Ports Authority chair Kimberlyn King-Hinds.
Alepuyo is confident that everyone who is involved in reopening tourism in the CNMI can make it happen safely. With King-Hinds and her “very capable” team in the loop, Alepuyo is confident that it will happen safely, while also keeping the CNMI community safe.
“Because we are looking for the resumption of tourism, we are also looking at jumpstarting our signature events, but as we don’t have visitors right now, we are focusing on the safety of the community,” said Alepuyo. She also said there must be a “great balancing act in order to make sure we do it right.”