TOGETHER, WE CAN
Håfa adai and tirow! June is a pivotal time for the Marianas. Many positive developments are taking flight, from the return of visitors to the Marianas to the start of the 2022 Northern Marianas Pacific Mini Games on June 17-25.
The Marianas also has a new airline, thanks to a joint venture between Saipan’s MP Enterprises and Southern Airways Express, one of America’s largest regional airlines. Marianas Southern Airlines announced it will be providing more than 90 flights a week between Rota, Tinian, Saipan, and Guam when service begins this summer. The new airline will provide the ease of transport that we’ve been needing and will take us a step closer to our goal of becoming a world-class multi-island destination.
For our residents, having access to more consistent connections will significantly improve our quality of life. It is exactly what we need to get moving and look ahead to a brighter tomorrow. The additional flights to Guam will provide residents and visitors with better connectivity to Asia and the U.S. On top of that, its new CNMI-based operation will create new jobs and contribute to our local economy. We thank Keith Stewart and his partners for their faith and investment in the Marianas and wish them great success!
The Japan market
We have been planning for a strong return of the tourism industry for quite some time. We’ve had success with the Korea Travel Bubble, and our team is aggressively working to secure a travel bubble with Japan. We are not shy about our goal of rebuilding the Japan market. We’ve had a good and longstanding relationship with Japan, and welcoming Japanese visitors back aligns with our goal of attracting more quality visitors.
We were a top destination for Japanese visitors at one time, and we can rebuild our standing as a destination of choice again. However, we can’t wait to make bold moves. With the easing of border restrictions in Japan, the time is now to begin attracting visitors back to our shores while ensuring that we are ready to receive them.
Everything we do right now should support the return of the Japan market, while continuing to do what we can to grow the Korean market. I invite all our agencies and businesses in the Marianas to work together to get us ready. As stakeholders in the success of tourism, we can move mountains when we work together. Ultimately, our people will benefit from a thriving tourism industry.
The Governor’s Council of Economic Advisers’ Public Private Partnership partners and community groups have completed many beautification projects these past two years. I thank them for their hard work and support. We are ready to take the next steps of getting major destination enhancement projects off the ground. In these next few months, we will focus on what we need to accomplish to meet the needs of our visitors.
Currently, the council is working with the Marianas Visitors Authority to repair the Bird Island Lookout railings, which have been worn down by the elements and are in dire need of repair. Bird Island Lookout is one of our top attractions, and this facelift will make our visitors’ experiences more enjoyable and safer for everyone who visits this breathtaking site. We are all working against the clock to achieve great things, and we will be announcing more major destination transformation projects soon.
Developing a world-class destination
At our May GCEA meeting, co-chairmen of the Tourism Committee, Brian Shin, CEO of E-Land Group’s Micronesia Resort Inc., and Warren Villagomez, COVID-19 Task Force chair and director of Public Health & Hospital Emergency Preparedness Program, shared some helpful data about what visitors think of the Marianas. As we aim to become a world-class destination—one that is clean, safe, beautiful, and provides good value, and has many attractions for visitors—one element is missing. Visitors have commented the Marianas doesn’t provide enough for visitors to do after 7pm.
The presentation also noted that there is a great need to further develop Garapan’s tourism offerings to include more attractions, activities, food and beverage offerings, golf and sports, shopping, spa, and cultural attractions. This is evident CNMI-wide.
Our major retailers T Galleria by DFS Saipan have reopened but it closes by 7pm, while I Love Saipan and the Joeten Shopping Center closes shortly after. With this data, I encourage all retailers to consider staying open later to appeal to our visitors.
As we take strides to rebuild the industry, I challenge our residents to be entrepreneurial-minded and work together to create quality, unforgettable experiences for our visitors. What benefits tourism always benefits our residents.
Happy Philippines Independence Day
As I close, June also marks a time to celebrate with our brothers and sisters from the Philippines. On Sunday, June 12, the Philippines will celebrate its independence from Spain in 1898. On behalf of first lady Diann Torres and my entire family, we celebrate with you and wish you a blessed holiday.
For more information about GCEA’s programs, visit cnmieconomy.com, engage with the council on Facebook and Instagram (@cnmigov.economy), or contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ralph DLG Torres is the 9th governor of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and the co-chairman of the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisers.