First and foremost, leave the American Memorial Park alone. This is not the place for the CNMI to begin its economic recovery even if it were with good intentions. It’s definitely not the place for backdoor deals. It’s a veterans memorial and it should be reserved for honoring those sacrifices, not for digging the CNMI out of its gluttony.
You want suggestions for earning additional revenue? Start with cleaning up all CNMI parks and beaches and make them presentable. Once that’s done, charge park admissions at CNMI parks for all nonresidents or charge upon CNMI entry an All-Parks Pass as part of nonresident entry fee into the CNMI. This could be collected prior to being allowed to disembark from the airport. Another option is a leisure/recreation departure tax to all departing tourists. Japan has a sayonara tax it collects from every nonresident departing; that’s about $10 per person. Departure tax in China is roughly $11 per person. Departure tax leaving Korea is about $10. Departure from Yap, $20. Departure from Pohnpei, $20; Chuuk, $20; Kosrae, $15. Non-Palau passport holders, $50 departure tax and green fee. Everyone does it except the CNMI.
Practically every tourist that visits the CNMI comes from a country that would charge CNMI residents a departure tax if we visited there, so why not charge them likewise? Charge 15% infrastructure/road tax to all tourists that rent a vehicle. Tourist hotel tax? This list could go on and on. Foreign investors hate these taxes but they will still invest. That said, the challenge is keeping foreign investors from stuffing CNMI politicians’ pockets.
This isn’t rocket science. Stop lining politicians’ greedy pockets with backdoor money from foreign investors and start charging tourists the same way every other tourist destination in the world does. Invest tourist tax revenue in tourist attractions and more tourists will come as facilities and beaches improve. Invest in your strengths. Beaches, dive sites, parks… The beaches could have nice covered cabanas, showers, and restrooms vice the junk we have.
Mica F. Cochran
Capital Hill, Saipan