The Marianas Visitors Authority board has unanimously voted to adopt Cultural Heritage Month as one of its annual signature events, in coordination with the Carolinian Affairs Office and the Indigenous Affairs Office, to promote cultural tourism.
The MVA board members unanimously voted last week to both adopt Cultural Heritage Month as one of its staple events and to appropriate $20,000 to fund the festivity.
MVA board chair Viola Alepuyo said it’s important for the MVA to promote the CNMI’s culture through festivals like this because it’s what sets the islands apart as a destination.
“Tourists will come to Saipan for the beaches, but they won’t stay at the beach. They come to seek culture, to see the people, the food. I think that MVA needs to start working harder at promoting that because that’s really what makes us unique as an island. You can go to other islands and other countries and find beaches and blue skies, but you can’t go anywhere else to see how resilient Chamorros are, or the traditions and culture the Refaluwasch people have protected throughout the years. You can only come here to see and feel that,” she said.
Alepuyo said the CAO and the IAO will continue to be the driving force behind such an important festival, but MVA will provide the support and resources needed to successfully carry out the event. “I think that the IAO and the CAO should be the one to dictate what the events are because they’re the experts in that area and then MVA should come in and provide all the logistics and support,” Alepuyo said.
MVA board member Ivan Quichocho echoed the sentiment, stating that the CNMI needs to focus and improve on cultural tourism.
“We need to have cultural tourism and make that a subsect of our calendars, really focus on these events that really highlight the Refaluwasch and the Chamorro culture,” he said.
MVA managing director Priscilla Iakopo said the CNMI’s indigenous cultures are what set the CNMI apart from other beach destinations and promoting the CNMI cultures provides visitors an opportunity to learn about its traditions
“It’s important that we continue to promote our cultures with our partners: the Carolinians Affairs Office, as well as the Indigenous Affairs Office,” she said.
Iakopo said that IAO and CAO already have a schedule of events for the entire month of September planned out. “There will be school outreaches to teach students cultural traditions like weaving and such, they will also have sunset concerts and cuisine nights. Most importantly, they will have a grand finale celebration where there will demonstrations of traditions,” she said.