The Hotel Association of the Northern Mariana Islands and the Marianas Visitors Authority have expressed support for a Senate bill that would extend the maximum lease terms from 40 to 55 years.
HANMI member Gloria Cavanagh, in a presentation to the House of Representatives last Friday, expressed the joint support of HANMI and MVA support for Senate Bill 20-35, which Senate President Arnold Palacios (R-Saipan) introduced.
S.B. 20-35 would set the initial lease agreement of an establishment at 40 years, with an option to extend for an additional 15 years.
Current law allows 25 years for the initial lease agreement, with the option to extend for another 15 years—for a maximum of 40 years.
In a later interview, Cavanagh said that information collected from exit surveys showed that several tourists have noted that many CNMI rooms and facilities are outdated.
“Who would spend millions…of dollars when they only have a few years left to go? If we don’t [pass S.B. 20-35] now, then these exit surveys are going to go viral and, all of a sudden, the growth we’ve had over the last couple of years is going to start to decline,” she said, emphasizing that other destinations have an edge over the CNMI due to their newer facilities.
“Everyone would like to think that the CNMI is very special and so beautiful [compared to] anything else—personally I believe that—but we are not [the most] special and beautiful place on earth. There are others who are very much like us, and they are our competition,” she said, adding that other destinations have convenient flight routes to serve them and their preferred tourist markets.
MVA managing director Chris Concepcion pointed out that the CNMI needs to concentrate on working on what is already here.
“We need to concentrate first on what we have here right now and not get it too dilapidated and run down. It affects our reputation as a destination internationally, so we need to take care of the properties we have right now,” he said.
He added that following the expiry of Mariana Resort & Spa’s lease in the next six days, Hyatt Regency Saipan’s lease is next. He noted that the Hyatt lease would expire around December of 2021. It is the only internationally branded hotel in the CNMI.
“We are very concerned about [Hyatt]. It is the only international brand, so we need to maintain that brand here in the CNMI,” he said.
“Fiesta Resort & Spa Saipan follows after [Hyatt], I believe, and Pacific Islands Club Saipan’s lease expires in 2026,” said Concepcion, adding that PIC’s lease is a combination of both private and public lands.
The bill is currently with the House Committee on Lands and Natural Resources.
Rep. Alice Igitol (R-Saipan) said in an interview that she would push for a review of S.B. 20-35.
“…We will work hard on this,” said Igitol, adding that she has set for a committee meeting in early May to discuss the bill.
House Speaker Rafael Demapan (R-Saipan) said in a separate interview that the reason why the House did not immediately review S.B. 20-35 was because they were trying to provide “due diligence.”
“[We are just] making sure that what we are attempting to do is in accordance with the CNMI Constitution,” said Demapan. When asked about the main concerns surrounding the bill, he said that several committee members had problems with some of the conditions of S.B. 20-35.
“These are the things that [we need to] make sure are discussed before any position [may be taken],” said the speaker.