‘Pandemic pause is good time to spruce up tourist spots’
Broken bathrooms, broken railings, and graffiti have turned many of the CNMI’s tourist hot spots into eyesores but the lack of tourists right now due to the COVID-19 pandemic is the perfect time for the CNMI to fix things up and the Marianas Visitors Authority board wants to take advantage of this moment.
Although nothing is official yet, MVA board members agreed at their meeting last week that the maintenance and repairs would include repairing broken restrooms, rails, fencing for cows, and more and have set aside $100,000 for this purpose.
Jerry Tan, MVA board member and TanHoldings president, said the best time to fix tourist sites is now since there are no tourists at the moment. Additionally, he thinks that although MVA isn’t in a position to do anything new for the tourist sites, it’s best to go out and do as much as they can to beautify what’s already there.
“I think we definitely should go out and do as much as we can, so that when the tourists [finally] come back,” said Tan, “if they’re a first-timer or a repeater, that will be a pleasant surprise.”
MVA board chair Marian Aldan-Pierce lauded the Department of Lands and Natural Resources for doing a “very good job” of maintaining yardwork at tourist sites but she cites untethered cows as a problem.
MVA managing director Priscilla Iakopo suggested visiting each site, doing an assessment, and then providing feedback if there’re fixtures that needs to be done.
Warren Villagomez, who is an MVA board member and chairman of the Governor’s COVID-19 Task Force, endorsed Tan’s suggestion to revive tourist spots. “We should start small, and do things now. We should take advantage of the situation we’re in,” said Villagomez. “There’s quite a few of our agencies that are not full 100% back to where they’re supposed to be, so we can ask the administration to support us.”
Tan added that the CNMI should expect travel demand not to be anywhere close to normal, so there’s time to fix tourist spots. “We have time. It’s not just between now and the first [international] flight,” said Tan. “We’re going to get the minimum number of arrivals to begin with, and then gradually increase.” He added that even if there are very few tourists after the reopening of the CNMI, it’s still a good time to fix what needs to be fixed.
Additionally, MVA board member Chris Nelson said that beach showers would be a win-win not only for tourists but island residents as well. Nelson added that not a lot of money would be spent for the showers, that creating the showers is the easy part but funding the water and having the maintenance done is something they would have figure out.
“We have freshwater where people can clean up their kids and tourist can go on and clean up before they get in their car. It’ll be a big win for us,” said Nelson.