THIS past week, the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisers made a presentation in Tinian that further examines the potential of marketing The Marianas as a “Multi-Island Integrated Destination.” Gov. Ralph DLG Torres led the discussion as we shared our commissioned report with Tinian Mayor Edwin Aldan, Rota Mayor Efraim Atalig, House Speaker Edmund Villagomez, Senate President Jude Hofschneider and senators from the 22nd Legislature, and stakeholders who can help make this initiative a reality. We primarily focused on Tinian’s opportunities to attract tourists and revive its tourism economy.
For Tinian to thrive under the Marianas’ Multi-Island Integrated Destination plan, it has to continue to generate interest in travel to the island through the creation and hosting of innovative festivals. The Beef, Beer, and Band Festival on July 24 is a great start, and I hope that residents on Rota and Saipan are already making plans to attend.
Rota, Saipan, and the Northern Islands were subjected to the same feasibility and sustainability study and were presented with their unique opportunities. Each island can capitalize on its unique sense of place to guide its next steps in developing events, sites, and attractions to help in its economic recovery. For example, Tinian should embrace its historic and cultural identity while transforming and protecting its historic sites. Paired with regular festivals, they have the potential to attract repeat international and domestic visitors.
Saipan’s recommendation included branding and upgrading resorts and revitalizing facilities as the center of the tourism and business activities in the Marianas. Rota and the Northern Islands, meanwhile, are geared toward eco-tourism to attract nature-inclined travelers, which continues to grow due to the health crisis across the globe.
All islands will have to take different approaches to revive their respective tourism economies. However, each has abundant natural resources that are the envy of overdeveloped destinations and are the Marianas’ biggest advantage. Travelers’ interests have shifted and demand for nature-centered destinations is strong. Tourists are now relishing a stroll in uncrowded beaches or a hike on secluded mountain trails to avoid crowds as the threat of Covid-19 remains.
To quote Darlena Zhai, the respected hospitality and travel consultant who authored the study, “The natural setting is there for the Marianas. Its nature is amazing and just needs to be enhanced to capture the demand with a better product.”
With Tinian now on board with the GCEA’s Public Private Partnership campaign, we now have the commitment of Rota and Tinian in transforming destination sites and villages facilities — a critical step toward getting the Marianas in top shape for visitors wanting to experience the beauty of a vastly improved Marianas post-pandemic.
As we prepare to welcome visitors and collaborate in reviving our economy, we need to continue our work as partners, clean and maintain our sites, bring transformational projects into the heart of the villages, and support game-changing initiatives, such as universal garbage collection, Hafa Adai & Tirow Pledge, economic diversification, and infrastructure improvements.
These campaigns have to be acted upon with a sense of urgency now that we have the financial resources from the ARPA funds, typhoon relief grants, and others to make them happen. The back-to-back disasters and the pandemic may have crippled our economy, but they are also giving us the rare opportunity to recover stronger and in a position to provide a better quality of life for our residents.
For more information, visit the GCEA at cnmieconomy.com, on Facebook and Instagram (@cnmigov.economy), or contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org
Mike Sablan is vice president of Triple J Enterprises Inc. and chairperson of the Domestic Policy and Recovery Committee of the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisers. As an advisory council for Gov. Ralph DLG Torres and Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios, the GCEA’s mission is to improve the quality of life in the Marianas for all residents.