Sen. Justo Quitugua (Ind-Saipan) is hoping the Marianas Visitors Authority could address some key tourism issues, especially at the Paseo de Marianas and its surrounding areas in Garapan. PDM is in Garapan where most hotels, restaurants, and shops that are frequented by foreign visitors is located.
What the Legislature, especially the Senate, wants MVA to do is to help ease the flow of cars driven by tourists in the area and parking that’s causing gridlocks, especially after work rush hours, Quitugua said.
Parking during weekends has also become a problem, he said, with most of the establishments not having enough space to accommodate vehicles, resulting in cars lining the narrow roads where double parking can sometimes be seen.
“I really would like for the roads around Paseo de Marianas to be addressed. The [Department of Public Works] already has a blueprint for that. And also to alleviate the parking and traffic congestion around that area,” said Quitugua.
He said it would be a big help to everyone who regularly visits the area if the concerns are addressed. “Businesses, tourists, and other people who frequent the area would really be happy and relieved. But right now, I don’t know what the administration is going to do.”
DPW could have received an additional $250,000 from MVA funds to redesign and reconstruct some of the roads in the Garapan tourist district and PDM, particularly Hotel Street, to ease parking and traffic congestion.
Gov. Ralph DLG Torres vetoed it before signing the budget bill, House Bill 19-196 SS1, keeping MVA’s budget untouched. He said that redirecting some of MVA’s funds would affect their daily operations, especially with marketing and promoting the CNMI in other countries.
Quitugua said that parking meters in the street adjacent to Fiesta Resort & Spa should also be used, with the money another source of income for the CNMI. “I think it is under the jurisdiction of DPW and [the Commonwealth Office of Transit Authority].”
He also believes the MVA has more to offer in terms of increasing tourists arrivals here in the CNMI. “The Guam Visitors Authority has an annual budget of $28 million and is bringing in over one million tourists a year. In the CNMI we try to increase visitors arrival, I think there is more for MVA could do to increase that.”
However, safety is also becoming an issue, with several businesses in Garapan complaining that it is no longer safe to park near their establishments. “Tourists, when they come here, they want a clean and safe environment. That is exactly what MVA could do, to promote cleanliness and safety.
“The area around PDM, everybody is talking about how unsafe it is, especially for tourists. The businesses around that area are saying we are losing customers because it is not safe to park and there’s no place to park. This body is very cognizant of that area for tourists, including on island customers.”
Quitugua said the Senate also adopted a resolution asking DPW and the Department of Public Safety to look at the roads around PDM to see what they could do to ensure its safety, improve its conditions, and to have adequate parking spaces.
He added that the MVA should also revisit some of their programs and think of new ones. “[They] should also revisit some of the programs that they have. Some are more than 20 years [old] now, and look at how many have been participating. What are the other destinations that they wanted to improve and their plans five or 10 years from now?”
The MVA’s funds are from the hotel occupancy tax amounting to $14,894,958 a year, with an additional $176,000 from the alcohol container tax, for a total of $15,070,958.