Over 400 5th to 12th grade students from 14 public schools on Saipan participated in the annual Marianas Tourism Education Council Tourism Summit held yesterday at the Marianas Base Camp, which is the former Mariana Resort & Spa.
The theme of this year’s MTEC Tourism Summit is “Marianas Strong.” The activities started at 8am and finished at 2pm.
At the Marianas Base Camp, the students learned about jobs, toured all the facilities, the hotel rooms, landscaping maintenance, and kitchen. They also checked Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services firetruck and ambulance and American Red Cross-NMI Chapter materials.
At the end of the summit, the students were given “My Marianas Pledge” cards, where they signed their names. They then had to stand up and make the pledge.
The tourism summit is an annual event since MTEC was created in 2002. MTEC and the Marianas Visitors Authority hosted the event. MTEC, is the brainchild of the Marianas Visitors Authority, partners, and the private sector. The founding partners include Duty Free Shoppers, Pacific Islands Club, Northern Marianas College, and the Public School System.
Emigrace Vinuya, a 9th grade student of Saipan Southern High School, said the summit is really helpful as they got a lot of information.
Vinuya said they also experienced hands on with the tourism industry.
Frank Kosam, a 5th grade student of Oleai Elementary School, said he likes the summit as they learned something good.
“Not to make trash inside the ocean. How to protect our island, make it beautiful and clean,” Kosam said.
MTEC board chair Vicky Benavente said they usually called the event, the My Wave Club Tourism Summit, but this year MTEC decided to open it up to all public school students so they could see how important CNMI’s tourism industry is.
Benavente said due to the recent Super Typhoon Yutu they did not really have time to form the My Way Club and organize so MTEC board of directors decided to open it up to all public schools.
“This is what they do. They come over here and learn about how important tourism is,” she said.
Among the participants were the American Red Cross-NMI Chapter, Micronesia Islands Nature Alliance, Music of the Marianas Association, Coastal Resources Management, Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services, LJ’s Lawn Care LLC, and educational entities such as the Northern Marianas Trade Institute, Latte Training Academy, Northern Marianas College, and PSS.
Benavente said the students were getting an idea on what happens to a community when a disaster strikes and how is that disaster affect the people, and what happens to the tourism industry too.
“The kids really got a lot of information today. And our theme for the overall MTEC is tourism is everybody’s business. So, we make it our business to teach the kids at a young age how important it is to them, what’s their role,” Benavente pointed out.
During the various activities, the students have to answer the question what would they do to help recover after disaster. Another question was how important is tourism to them and what the people can do as community to keep the tourists coming back.
Students were also asked how they can promote the islands to attract visitors, especially high-end tourists.
Benavente said the best ideas come from the youth on how the CNMI can make the islands prettier, how to make the people friendlier.
She said the Music of the Marianas Association also participated by teaching students about music and culture, values and language, the friendliness and hospitality.
“That’s what our tourism is all about, being hospitable to our guests,” Benavente said
Benavente said several My Wave Club members are now working in the tourism industry.
She cited that the Hyatt Regency Saipan’s banquet manager started up as My Wave Club student at 4th grade.
“I have some students who were in the 5th grade and high school who are now working at PIC and other hotels, they’re members of a My Wave Club before,” she said.
Kanoa Resort operations director and MTEC board member Glenn Policare said this year’s summit is “so incredible” as the students have access to a facility otherwise they would not normally have.
Policare said Mariana Resort is no longer open to the public, but Benavente was instrumental in getting Marianas Base Camp open and have the students over the kitchen, front desk, and engineering department.
“We have the kids be able to go out and see this, essentially it’s a giant working operation. But we were able to get behind the scene,” he said.
Policare said the children have been asking so many insightful questions whether it be housekeeping, whether be hotel rooms, food and beverage, or engineering department.
“It’s been incredible. I think the overall goal again is to increase awareness. And to show the kids that tourism is everyone’s business and there is always a position for somebody no matter what level, what role,” he said.
Fiesta Resort & Spa general manager and MTEC board member Wendi S. Herring said the summit gets into the school at all different levels both private and public.
“Today we are focusing primarily on the public schools. But it really instills to the kids how important tourism is to the islands. Without it, where we would be?” Herring said.
She said tourism is the No. 1 economic driver that the CNMI has.
“Just seeing their enthusiasm today and speaking to them and greeting them. It is so rewarding and so much fun. And you can see a lot of them have a passion for it. They understand that tourists are so important and they love to greet them, get to know them,” Herring said.