Key visitor industry leaders support Northern Islands promotion project

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TOP business executives on Saipan expressed their support for the administration in promoting the Northern Islands as among the tourist destinations of the CNMI.

They said the promotional project “Deer Meat for Dinner” initiated by Gov. Ralph DLG Torres with the Marianas Visitors Authority will further create awareness of CNMI as destination in the Pacific region.

“Will the CNMI get an immediate uptick in tourism to the Northern Islands?” DFS Saipan president and MVA Board Chairwoman Marian Aldan-Pierce asked.

“Of course not.  We have none of the necessary logistics to welcome visitors to any one island beyond Saipan at this moment.”

However, she added, “I see the footage as teasers for what can be available to adventure seekers with money in the future. I’m talking long term.  What the footage is doing is creating awareness of our destinations — the three [main islands] that we market all the time, and the potential of the 11 that are virtually virgin territory — which are getting to be a rarity in this part of the world.  He is showing the world where we are located and the gems we have.”

The government spent $59,000 in hotel occupancy tax collections to contract Robert Arrington to promote and showcase the Northern Islands on his YouTube channel.

One of the primary reasons for collecting hotel occupancy tax is to help fund the MVA promotion efforts.

Aldan-Pierce said the quality of the footage is great and showcases not just the unique qualities of the islands Arrington has visited, but how fun off-the-grid living is and can be.

“The starting costs for a promotion like this were a quarter of a million dollars, and MVA did not have that kind of support money. Over the years, at the behest of previous mayors, MVA had wanted to get quality footage of these islands to showcase the beauty of not just our three inhabited islands, but of all the fourteen islands that we own.  Due to price, however, this had been impossible,” she added.

She said, “It is unfortunate that so much negative attention continues to be put forth by some of the people rather than looking at the positive contribution it can have.” 

“Mr. Arrington is an adventurer and a lover of nature and the simple life we have as islanders,” she added.  “And all these good things are drowning in negativity.”

Tan Holdings president Jerry Tan believes that the CNMI needs exposure.

“We need to build our brand,” he said. “This [promotion] takes a consistent and long-term marketing effort of showcasing to the world who we are and what we have to offer.”

Tan expressed his appreciation to the governor for taking advantage of the opportunity.

“Opportunities for this level of exposure are very rare, and at such a low cost, are nearly nonexistent.  Platforms like YouTube and productions like Mr. Rob Arrington’s are at the cutting edge of marketing,” he said.

For his part, Triple J Enterprises vice president for finance and administration Mike Sablan said: “The stunning footage we saw these last couple of weeks showcasing the beauty of our islands up north has created awareness of some new experiences to offer to tourists.”

Although it may be years before the CNMI can develop the needed infrastructure, logistics and safeguards to include the Northern Islands among its tourist destinations, “the recent YouTube videos are a great start, he added.

MVA Managing Director Priscilla Iakopo said it  would have been irresponsible for them not to take advantage of the opportunity to put the CNMI out there to an audience of millions, for such a nominal cost.

“Marketing at this low cost is rare. Many people do not understand just how much it costs to market the CNMI.  We have to spend money in order to attract visitors.  Marketing in general is normally incredibly expensive,” she said.

In a statement, Gov. Torres said,” The government spent a small amount to assist in making the production happen. 

“While we made a small investment solely to assist with the transportation costs, Mr. Arrington spent a significant of amount of his own resources to cover much of the cost of his nearly two weeks of filming,” he said.

“It is disheartening that particular members of the Legislature have targeted this marketing effort and have attempted to cast a dark cloud over what is a rare opportunity to bring the beauty of our islands to an audience of millions.  For the very small investment made by the CNMI, Rob Arrington will be here for nearly two months of filming and producing shows featuring the Northern Islands, Saipan, and Tinian.”

The governor said that the viewership of “Deer Meat for Dinner” episodes that featured the CNMI is already approaching 17 million.

“The goal is to diversify our visitor numbers for the long term. I would challenge those who are making a case against this, when our bread and butter is tourism, to provide me with a similar opportunity that brings our islands to an audience of millions for as little cost,” the governor said.

As of July 23, 2020, “Deer Meat for Dinner” had 2.37 million subscribers on YouTube.

Rob Arrington will be in the CNMI for several weeks, filming episodes of “Deer Meat for Dinner” on Tinian and Saipan to showcase the natural environment and the people of the Marianas.






November 2020 pssnewsletter

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