‘Existing hotels should get priority in new lease talks’

The Marianas Visitors Authority believes that existing hotels on public lands should be given first priority when negotiating a new lease or a renewal or extension of an existing lease.

Such priority should be the case as long as it conforms with the CNMI Constitution, said MVA managing director Christopher A. Concepcion yesterday.

“We trust the Department of Public Lands is doing their due diligence on all these matters,” he added.

He described as “a good thing” a Senate bill that would allow 15 additional years for existing leases.

He said the bill will allow hotel owners time to renovate and expand their properties with sufficient time to realize a solid return on investment.

“ROI (return on investment) is absolutely critical when making major business decisions,” Concepcion said.

At the same time, he said, if a request for proposals is required for public land leases, all existing lease holders should be given at least five years or more before their lease expires to allow them to compete and plan for the future.

“Major investments need ample time to plan for future development,” he said.

Senate Bill 20-35 seeks to extend the lease of public lands from 40 years to 75 years—40 years with up to a 35-year extension, which is seen to generate renewed economic interest in the CNMI from new investors.

Senate President Arnold I. Palacios (R-Saipan) recently disclosed that the Senate Committee on Resources, Economic Development, and Program chaired by Sen. Francisco Borja (R-Saipan) is still reviewing the bill to make sure all comments from various members of the community are taken into consideration.

The land leases of five landmark hotels on Saipan, including Hyatt Regency Saipan, are set to expire in three years. When its land lease expired this year, Mariana Resort & Spa and the Mariana Country Club in Marpi shut down after 40 years of operations.

Concepcion said the tourism industry requires stability and consistency in public policy because it creates an investor-friendly environment that attracts investors to the CNMI.

“Foreign investors monitor our actions from afar and are either persuaded or dissuaded from investing here if they feel there’s no sense of certainty in public policy,” he said.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a veteran journalist who has covered all news beats in the CNMI. Born in Lilo-an, Cebu City in the Philippines, De la Torre graduated from the University of Santo Tomas with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He is a recipient of many commendations and awards, including the CNMI Judiciary’s prestigious Justice Award for his over 10 years of reporting on the judiciary’s proceedings and decisions. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@saipantribune.com

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