‘We have a rich history here’

“It’s all up to the CNMI Legislature now,” said Hyatt senior vice president for operations in the Asia Pacific Thomas Smith, left, with regard to Hyatt’s pending lease extension. With him is Hyatt vice president in Japan and Micronesia Sam Sakamura in a media briefing yesterday at the Hyatt Regency Saipan in Garapan. (Bea Cabrera)

Visiting Saipan for the first time and pleased with what Hyatt Regency Saipan has become over the years, a senior Hyatt official expressed the corporation’s fervent hope that the hotel’s lease would be extended.

During a media briefing at the presidential suite of the Hyatt Regency Saipan yesterday, Thomas Smith, Hyatt senior vice president for Operations in the Asia Pacific, pointed out that Hyatt has been in operation for 38 years on Saipan.

“We have a rich history here on Saipan and, in the 38 years that this international brand of Hyatt has been here, we certainly hope to continue that for another 38 years or longer because this has really been a cornerstone for Hyatt for Asia Pacific.

“Our first hotel outside of the U.S. was in Hong Kong, established in 1969. Fast forward to Saipan, which is one of our first resorts, has proven that this really was a staple for us on Saipan,” he added.

In August 2017, Senate Bill 20-35, introduced by Senate President Arnold Palacios (R-Saipan), would set the initial lease of an establishment at 40 years, with an option to extend for an additional 15 years. It passed the Senate with a 9-0 vote; nine months later, the bill is still up for discussion for further action in the House of Representatives.

Smith said that, with Hyatt’s history of 38 years on Saipan, “we would love to be in service for 38 more years because I know all of our [Hyatt] team members rely on that. A lot of our plans are really reliant on our future—the future of the lease legislation and there’s a lot of plans that Hyatt general manager Nick Nishikawa and the team have walked me through,” Smith said.

“From room renovations, which they are doing right now as we speak, to ballroom renovations to again just take the product and modernize it as much as possible in order to stay current with the new trends, from WiFi to all the developments that are within the industry. Right now, a lot of it depends on this lease legislation and we hope to get that push through so we can extend our lease for at least 15 more years,” Smith added.

Aside from its continued presence and operations on Saipan, Smith said they also want more airline and flight business to come back to the CNMI.

“We have plans to meet with the airline executives in Japan in the future and this our goal organically as well from the hotel perspective to help grow the economy here… We definitely need more airlift as it would be ideal from Japan, also from Korea as well as China. It’s no secret that the Chinese market is growing exponentially…and so we have plans to be able to serve and take care of them.”

“Air travel from Guam is reducing this month. Now that one flight is going to happen, that may require a stay over for many, so the opportunity of packaging between Guam and Saipan stays has big potential… Saipan’s counterpart, Hyatt Regency Guam, will work together and try to make a package that will help the traveler experience both islands,” Smith added.

Hyatt Hotels Corp. continues to grow, with 700 hotels globally, and eyes more growth in the Asia Pacific region, Micronesia, Southeast Asia, China, and Australia in the next five years.

According to Hyatt Japan and Micronesia vice president Sam Sakamura, there are currently 11 Hyatt hotels in Japan that rely on the skills of Hyatt Regency Saipan employees.

“We are opening Okinawa, too, and we believe that Hyatt Regency Saipan is a great resource for providing training and this will give the local staff on Saipan more exposure to the other hotels. This way, we utilize the experience and expertise built on Saipan that will be applicable to the new hotels,” he said.

“We are also opening in Hokkaido and expanding more of the resort experience in the Hyatt hotel chain and we would really like to utilize the experience here on Saipan even for winter resorts,” he added.

Hyatt Regency Saipan’s lease is set to expire in December 2021 and stakeholders such as the Hotel Association in the Northern Marianas Islands, Marianas Visitors Authority, and the Saipan Chamber of Commerce have publicly showed support to extend public land leases.

In an earlier interview, Chamber president Velma Palacios said that they strongly support Senate Bill 20-35 and believes that it would generate renewed interest by current and future investors.

“Our goal is to continue to keep our presence here on Saipan for sure…Our hope is to continue operation here even if it’s sold and operated under a new owner. However, we would love to operate under the current owner because they’ve been such good partners with Hyatt,” Smith said.

“We love to see all the great people here and to be able to continue to work with them as a number of people in our leadership team has an average of 25 years of experience in Hyatt Saipan. All of those people will be impacted and potentially have to relocate… so our fingers are really crossed for good luck and wish for that [lease extension] to go through,” Smith added.

Bea Cabrera Cabrera
Bea Cabrera O’Malley, who holds a law degree, also has a bachelor’s degree in mass communications. She has been exposed to multiple aspects of mass media, doing sales, marketing, copywriting, and photography.

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