FROM: Tourism and Infrastructure Committee, Governor’s Council of Economic Advisers
TO: Governor Ralph DLG Torres and Chairman Jerry Tan
SUBJECT: Increase Enforcement Authority for Tour Guide Certification
The Council found that the requirement for all tour guides in the CNMI to obtain MVA Tour Guide Certification prior to employment under CNMI Public Law 18-58 (4 CMC § 2173) has an important purpose and should be supported for the quality of our tourist product to visitors and in the protection of visitor safety and preservation of historic and cultural sites. However, a notable exclusion within the act was an enforcement and penalty provision should an operator be employing non-certified tour guides. Without enforcement or penalties, there exist no disincentive for tour operators to flout the law and put at risk the total tourism experiences the CNMI offers to its visitors.
Throughout CNMI law, certification is required to perform a number of commercial functions and represent qualifications to perform said functions. There exist laws governing the actions and certification of Certified Public Accountants, Notaries Public, and a range of professions contained in the certifications provided by the Board of Professional Licensing. Each of these requirements is accompanied by varying degrees of civil and criminal penalties for violating the terms of the license or in operating within a given professional environment without approval or certification. The Tour Guide Certification is an exemption to this and is without civil or criminal penalties for either operating without certification or being in violation of a previously granted certification.
It should be noted that the tour guides themselves, in operating without certification required by law, are a result of unlawful action by the tour operator who employs them in violation of the law. The tour operators should be held to account for these actions.
The Council recommends an amendment to CNMI Public Law 18-58 to provide for criminal penalties for tour operator (as defined in the statute) the hiring and employment of a tour guide without first obtaining tour guide certification from the Marianas Visitors Authority. Similar provisions contained in CNMI Law provide that “Violation of any regulation promulgated pursuant to this chapter is punishable by up to one (1) year imprisonment and a fine of up to $2,500.00.” The Council believes that operating in violation of CNMI law in this sensitive area for both public safety and orderly conduct of the economy is severe and warrants criminal prosecution of the tour operator who employs uncertified tour guides.
In the conduct of their operations, tour guides provide services to visitors utilizing both land and sea transportation routes and facilitate access to public property and facilities. In this course of business, tour guides encounter a range of separate authorities enforcing various other laws of the Commonwealth. The Department of Public Safety provides enforcement of the Commonwealth’s traffic laws on roads and marine safety laws in the water. The Division of Coastal Resource Management and the Department of Public Lands shares enforcement authorities over beach concessionaires. The Council does not believe the Marianas Visitors Authority, while being the certifying authority, should be the enforcement arm of this provision, rather that enforcement be shared by existing law enforcement personnel present in the government where interactions with tour guides overlaps with existing enforcement jurisdictions.
Concurred by the Members of the Tourism and Infrastructure Committee
Governor’s Council of Economic Advisers