As of Monday, the Marianas Visitors Authority, in partnership with Northern Marianas College, has officially certified over 200 tour guides.
The tour guide certification program that was launched in late October of 2017 has so far certified a total of 226 tour guides across Saipan.
During the Rotary Club of Saipam’s weekly meeting yesterday at the Hyatt Regency Saipan, tour guide certification program manager Kuen-Hee Han said a total of 226 badges and certificates have already been issued as of June 4; a total of 322 applicants signed up for the program. That leaves a total of 96 applicants still need to be certified.
“We had a couple of people who haven’t passed or haven’t came into my office yet, or who are still on the waiting list,” she said.
According to Han, the requirements to apply for the program is knowledge of basic CNMI history, and basic knowledge of how to conduct safe tours.
“One of the things we really emphasize is the history…to disseminate the correct information because we don’t want wrong information out there,” she said.
When asked if the tour guide certification program could play a role in ensuring fewer tourist deaths in the CNMI, Han said that that is the goal.
“What I have seen is that most of these accidents have happened with no tour guides available. If you’re with our certified tour guides…they won’t even take clients to Forbidden Island or places like that,” she said.
Han said that one of the biggest challenges the program currently faces is enforcement or lack of it. “But we have had great support from…everyone. Every government agency that I have talked to have been waiting for this program to be launched and they’re all for it,” she said.
“Everyone has a claim, everyone is a stakeholder here, so it’s not just…MVA’s program,” she added.
The Hotel Association of the Northern Mariana Islands has also supported the tour guide certification program by mandating all tour agency partners to have their guides undergo the program.
“I presented at HANMI last week…and what they told me is that, if you’re a HANMI member or want to work with HANMI hotels, then you have to be a certified tour guide…They won’t allow any tour guide to pick up any of their clients if they’re not certified,” said Han.
The tour guide certification program is also in the process of expanding to Tinian and Rota.
“We were looking into that but because they are so remote…the training is going to take a little bit…but what we are trying to do is get people listed so we know that these guys are working legally,” she said.
For interested individuals who want to be certified as tour guides, applications are available at the MVA office and the fee is $50. The classes are scheduled at night and students must complete a total of 20 hours of the program to be certified.