Marianas Variety

Last updateSat, 19 Jan 2019 12am







    Sunday, January 20, 2019-1:31:54P.M.






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NMI tourism

I AM writing as a humble student of hospitality and tourism management.

It has come to everyone’s attention in the CNMI that this beloved destination is faced with challenges in attracting and retaining Japanese tourists, a market that originally fueled Saipan’s tourism development decades ago. Based on my observation, Japanese hospitality in fact still influences the service culture here. The genuineness carried by people in the hospitality industry, as well as inside every household, is the service spirit that should be preserved and further developed. But, only being genuine and organic is not enough to sustain the industry. Because after all, tourism itself embodies the goal of profit-making, and this requires a comprehensive development plan that goes beyond tourism marketing. While the suspension of Delta flights has saddened the community, this may be an opportunity for us all to reflect on what has been accomplished in serving the Japan market. Or rather, what has been accomplished to serve all the markets (the Big 3 in particular)?

I personally think that MVA has devoted much capital and energy in promoting the CNMI overseas. In fact, their marketing campaigns and creative ideas are rather aggressive and impressive, considering the size and capacity of this destination. However, if we look at a tourism destination from a theatrical perspective — that is, the destination is a theatrical stage, in which all people and objects are to cohesively perform a show for the audience (the tourists), then we will need someone, perhaps a stage manager, choreographer, or a script writer, to organize the resources that collectively tell a story of the CNMI. In this case, MVA, currently a marketing branch of the government, is, analogously, tasked to promote the show and sell tickets to the foreign audience. MVA’s designated duties do not involve infrastructure development, service training, tour packaging, to name a few. So, it is unfair to demand  MVA to take care of every problem. Then the question is, who in the government leadership is in charge? This is a simply question, frankly. The answer is a destination manager. 

Destination management is not new. Any tourism textbook has one or more chapters about the idea. In fact, anybody that has taken a tourism course is aware of this. Under this concept, advertising and promotions are some but not all the functions it entails. Destination managers work on the ground, collaborating with industry practitioners, government agencies, and the community to transform a place into something enjoyable to both the visitors and local residents. I believe that the CNMI government already has various agencies to deal with individual areas in tourism development, or development in general. However, the ideal is to collaborate, work hard together, and develop a systematic perspective. And, most importantly, ideas and opinions from the community need to be taken into consideration. The ultimate goal of tourism development is to sustain happiness for all humans inside and outside of a destination. We should not work to only please a certain group of tourists, but all humans that come in contact with our islands. It is always true that if the community truly and happily enjoys a place, then the tourists will do as well.   

Thank you!

Assistant Professor, Hospitality Management School of Business
Northern Marianas College