Getting Garapan back on the grid should be one of the top priorities for power restoration, considering the economic activity in the area, according to Rep. Blas Jonathan “BJ” Attao (Ind-Saipan).
He said Garapan is not only a hub for tourism where many tourists are billeted but there are also a significant number of businesses that directly benefit from tourism-related activities in the area.
“So why not get Garapan on the grid? Why not prioritize this area?” Attao said.
Attao specifically cited a recent report that some 7,000 tourists have so far canceled their visits to the CNMI due to the typhoon, and not having sufficient power in Garapan may not help the CNMI lure more tourists.
Most of the large hotels may have sufficient power, but surrounding businesses and facilities that tourists can go to are still out of power, or are operating on limited hours.
The Commonwealth Utilities Corp. has yet to release a schedule as to when power will return to Garapan.
Attao said CUC could probably draw up a new set list of priorities and include Garapan on the list.
As of last week, a total of 9,268 tourists have so far canceled their trips to the CNMI, translating to $24 million in lost revenue for the islands, according to the Marianas Visitors Authority managing director Perry Tenorio.
Hotel Association of the Northern Mariana Islands president Gloria Cavanagh said some of the large hotels across Saipan have reported some damage, but most were able to accommodate the influx of visitors.
Most of the hotels are also running their own generators, while some have issues with power.
She said Hafa Adai Hotel in Garapan is operating at “half capacity,” while Saipan World Resort reported that 36 rooms have no air-conditioning.
Kanoa Resort is operating at full capacity, while Pacific Islands Club reported some damage to 27 rooms.
Cavanagh said Mariana Resort and Spa has some concerns on its generators, but it is otherwise able to provide the needed services to guests.
“Basically, everyone is up and running,” Cavanagh said.
She said hotels have been able to fill rooms with local residents as well as federal disaster relief personnel.
She said, though, that starting Aug. 16, hotels expect more tourists to come in because August is traditionally a peak month for tourism.
She said one workaround is that hotels will not be able to extend the stay of some of its guests, or in some cases, the extension will be on a day-by-day basis.