With the CNMI’s tourism industry at a standstill, it would be a good time for the Marianas Visitors Authority to recalibrate its approach to tourism markets—this time for the CNMI to lure more tourists with higher spending power, according to Jerry Tan, who chairs the newly created Governor’s Council of Economic Advisers.
Speaking at Tuesday’s regular meeting of the Rotary Club of Saipan at the Hyatt Regency Saipan, Tan, who used to be a member of the MVA board, is batting for a quality over quantity approach when it comes to choosing the CNMI’s next tourist markets, especially now that the islands will soon be rebooting its tourist industry following months of inactivity due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This comes with the recognition that most of the CNMI’s tourists are not big spenders.
“We cannot think about quantity, we have to think about quality. We want quality tourists,” he said.
Tan said there’s also no better time than now to spruce up the CNMI’s tourist sites, considering that the pandemic has zeroed out the islands’ visitor arrivals.
“The best time to clean up and upgrade is now because there are no tourists. It is not affecting them. We don’t want to be renovating or constructing when they are here,” he added.
Before the MVA can do anything to upgrade the CNMI’s tourist sites, however, the community should first know how to take care and maintain the infrastructure so the improvement won’t go to waste, he said.
“How about we do our own work? Take care of our sites on our islands first. Right now, it is unacceptable,” said Tan, adding that the CNMI also needs a quality airport to make a good first impression on the first-class tourists it hopes to attract in the future. “We don’t need a fancy or a big one but it has to be an airport product that would give a right and a good impression during their arrival and departure,” he added.
This becomes doubly crucial because, after the pandemic, island destinations will be in great demand, according to him.
With the right mix of government and private sector cooperation, Tan believes the CNMI has what it takes to improve its tourism marketability and ultimately become a world-class destination.
“I truly believe that we can become a world-class island destination. Once we put our act together. Once we are committed to improving our sites, cleaning up, and keeping it safe. …Quality tourists, quality investors, quality accommodations, and quality airport, we would have a successful economy and tourism industry because we would have a world-class destination,” he added.
The strides made by the CNMI in the tourism industry would help improve the local economy, as the public and private sectors would be able to create and maintain good-paying and secure jobs.
Tan envisions the CNMI becoming a world-class destination in 10 years, which will require the effort of everyone in the Commonwealth. “We all have a role to play.”
A vibrant economy would then result in an improved way of life for the people of the Commonwealth. “The most important for me is quality of life. This all comes down to our residents in the Commonwealth,” said Tan, who is also president of TanHoldings, the mother company of Saipan Tribune. (Chevy Alipio)