The Division of Coastal Resources Management under the Bureau of Environmental and Coastal Quality will be assessing the capacity of tourism sites in the CNMI to absorb crowds to ensure that these sites are protected.
Considering tourism is the CNMI’s primary economic driver, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres said it is critical that the CNMI work to make informed, data-driven decisions when developing carrying capacities for the Marianas’ tourist sites.
According to the United Nations World Tourism Barometer’s August 2017 report, the CNMI is the third fastest growing tourism destination in the world. The Marianas Visitors Authority reported tourist arrivals of 607,593 in fiscal year 2018 and 653,150 in fiscal year 2017.
Torres noted that while the numbers bolster the CNMI economy, it is equally important to promote sustainable tourism development and management. He pointed out that user-conflict is always an issue at popular tourist sites like the Grotto.
“To successfully implement tourism fees at sites, setting up fee structure frameworks and investigating tourists’ willingness-to-pay is integral to ensuring the CNMI is efficiently utilizing a potential revenue stream and enabling sustainable tourism practices,” Torres said.
DCRM director Janice Castro said the user capacity assessments is a component of its Sustainable Sites project, which started in August.
“This includes identifying how much a visitor is willing to pay for our valuable resources, how many users a site can sustainably carry at a time, and recommendations for a sustainable CNMI tourism industry,” Castro said.
Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios said the project includes surveying visitor use of tourist sites, evaluating environmental indicators, and capturing visitor satisfaction, and willingness-to-pay.
“Balancing environmental protection and economic viability is always a complex issue, but through input from tourism industry members, our government agencies, and us as policymakers, we can find the right solutions for these set of problems. The goal ultimately is to preserve our tourism sites for both our residents and visitors for generations to come,” Palacios said.
The Sustainable Sites meetings are expected to occur throughout the fall of 2019 and spring of 2020. If you have any questions, contact Kelsey McClellan at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit DCRM’s website at https://dcrm.gov.mp/current-projects/sustainable-sites/. (PR)