Ancient latte stones eyed as World Heritage sites

Posted on Mar 15 2012

The Marianas Visitors Authority endorsed yesterday to acting governor Eloy S. Inos the final draft of the CNMI Tourism Master Plan for 2012-2016, a document described by experts as the most robust tourism study ever conducted on the Commonwealth so far.

Detailed in the over 100-page document are extensive research on the destination and markets, the CNMI’s tourism history, needed tourism projects, and other important recommendations based on solid data gathered, according to Management Analysis Inc. consultant Lynn Knight.

One of the more notable recommendations, she disclosed, is the proposal to apply for World Heritage designation for the ancient Chamorro latte stone on Rota and Tinian. She said experts described the sites as “very special” that would not only bring prestige to the Commonwealth but will create a significant signature attraction for the islands.

Knight disclosed that the team is now trying to find out the requirements for submitting an application with UNESCO, which grants the World Heritage site designation.

“The team believes those sites are special enough that could become World Heritage sites, which will bring lots of prestige to the CNMI,” she said.

Also incorporated in the new master plan are 20 tourism projects recommended for development in the next five years. Some of them can be developed in a short time and do not require so much financial requirements, Knight said.

“Some of these projects are for MVA, some for other agencies, and some for community groups. We really spread the work because tourism is everybody’s business and needs everybody’s involvement,” she said.

The master plan was funded by a $350,000 grant from the Office of Insular Affairs last year, according to MVA chair Marian Aldan-Pierce and managing director Perry Tenorio. They said that less than $220,000 was spent to complete the document.

Aldan-Pierce said that one of the important components of the new plan are the surveys taken from all markets, which specifically detailed what tourists actually do on the islands and how much they spent in the CNMI.

According to Tenorio, the plan also incorporates industry feedback and ideas from more than 130 stakeholders on Saipan, Tinian, Rota, Japan, Korea, China, and Guam. It also incorporates the views of more than 2,300 international and American visitors that participated in an exit survey.

“This document will help us to establish a way forward in improving the CNMI’s tourism industry,” said Tenorio.

Since many of the proposed action items and initiatives will involve other agencies and community groups, Tenorio said that MVA wants to work with the Office of the Governor in creating a leadership framework that will help implement the plan. He said the new plan is designed to connect with the last five-year strategic tourism plan initiated by the government and MVA in 2006.

The master plan was developed for MVA by MAI of Vienna, Virginia, which coordinated a multinational team of experts and a nine-member survey team that was hired locally.

Inos acknowledged OIA for the funding assistance and expressed optimism that MVA will seriously consider the recommendations of the five-year master plan. Also present at yesterday’s presentation were MAI president Art Smith.

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