FROM: Tourism and Infrastructure Committee, Governor’s Council of Economic Advisers
TO: Governor Ralph DLG Torres and Chairman Jerry Tan
SUBJECT: Marpi Visitors Center
Building upon the previously recommended framework for the development of greater Private Public Partnership initiatives, a pilot of this endeavor is recommended in the pursuit of a privatization of the management, operation, and the establishment of a fee structure for the primary tourist sites located in Marpi, Saipan.
Facilities in the area, over the course of the development of tourism accommodations in the tourist sites at Banzai Cliff, Suicide Cliff, the Grotto and Bird Island have been in consistent need for maintenance, improvements, and oversight. Further, the sites as they are now, are geographically located in close proximity, however, their economic potential toward the tourism marketplace is segmented; not provided the maximum marketing exposure and efficiencies that would otherwise be possible given their potential as a combined product to the tourism market.
The Council explored examples of similar destination’s efforts to gain greater efficiencies on the economic potential of their respective tourist sites and found a primary example in the Hanauma Bay tourism site in Hawaii. This facility provides a visitor center to permit cultural and historical education to visitors, facilitate the sale of merchandise, and collect entrance fees to tourists while ensuring visitor number control to preserve the environmental and scenic quality of significant tourism sites. Closer to the CNMI experience, the privatization of the operation and maintenance of the island of Managaha is an example that provides example of the practice, which provides lessons and experience that can be replicated and improved.
The Council sees an establishment of a unified tourism experience for the sites present in Marpi, through a privatization of the service of visitor management, fee collection, and site maintenance, along with the development of a visitor center and the cultivation of a greater efficiencies for the Commonwealth government.
At present, the maintenance of these sites, is shared by the CNMI Department of Public Lands, the Division of Parks and Recreation and the Marianas Visitors Authority, in partnership with civic organizations in coordination with the Council. There exist no present dedicated employees toward the maintenance and support of these specific sites.
In implementing the privatization framework, the Council recommends that the administration consider the privatization of the totality of the tourism sites located in Marpi into a single effort lead by the sourcing of contracting opportunities by the CNMI Department of Public Lands. Further, and in recognition of the absence of personnel needed to be transitioned, that the framework be implemented in the pursuit of the development of the site to become a singular tourist attraction, that allows for the education of our visitors, the maintenance of the site’s facilities and the generation of revenue.
A developed and monetized attraction provides greater value for our visitors and the residents. The enhancement of this destination within the Commonwealth supports the image and marketability of the islands abroad and creates a streamlined process toward packaging the CNMI to potential visitors. In this example, the marketing and exposure provided to the CNMI through the single tourist site of Managaha showcases this value and much like Managaha, greater efficiencies can be garnered through a collaboration with private operators.
In implementing this framework, the Council sees this as a prime opportunity to pilot a privatization effort that expands the potential of this important site for our residents and our visitors while ensuring adequate and transparent competition in ensuring the most efficient allocation of resources and the best possible development of the site.
Concurred by the Members of the Tourism and Infrastructure Committee
Governor’s Council of Economic Advisers