In an inspirational talk with members of the Marianas Visitors Authority at the Fiesta Resort & Spa on Tuesday morning, former Honolulu Mayor Muliufi Francis “Mufi” Hannemann said the CNMI can revive its tourism industry by tapping into the following:

1. Military buildup

Hannemann said that much anticipation is there on the military buildup on Guam.

“There could be a spillover benefit for the CNMI,” he said. He added that in Hawaii, the military is the second largest industry because of its history, location and the warm welcome manner they show to the military.

“We show them that they are welcome and we want to work with them. We show them that we love them and they are part of our community,” Hannemann said.

He added that nobody can assume what the military will like if they will not come to the islands.

“We cannot assume that Guam is providing all their needs and services and the only way to get that is through a meaningful dialogue with them, reach out to them,” he said.

Based on his experience, Hannemann said that meaningful dialogues with military-civilian working groups help a lot in knowing what issues need to be addressed.

2. Education

Hannemann said the CNMI is at the Northern Pacific and could provide the Micronesian experience to students. Hawaii, which is on the other part, could provide the Polynesian experience.

“We can do exchange programs to further the education of our students. We have outstanding universities and schools in Hawaii and we could work together,” he said.

3. Ecotourism

Hannemann stressed that environmental tourism is about safety, maintenance and making sure that local residents don’t feel like they’re excluded from tourism.

“All the emphasis now is in the shift to make sure that tourists are happy and the locals will not be denied access to different sites, do not take this for granted,” he said.

Hannemann said the safety of tourist spots is of utmost importance.

“Check with public safety people about the facilities,” he said. He added that maintenance of the tourist sites is another issue to be looked into.

4. Agriculture

At one time, Hannemann said agriculture was king in Hawaii, with sugar cane and pineapple dominating the arena but now agriculture has diversified to local products, seafood and others.

“Local agriculture is all about producing local products and marketing. The goal would be to have local people buying the local products,” he said.

5. Sports

“The sports industry in the CNMI is doing very well but don’t’ take it for granted,” Hannemann said.

He said the government can come in and create certain events to lure more visitors from other countries.

6. Film and TV advertising

Hannemann said this industry is somewhat difficult and challenging but can be done.

7. Lift capacity

“This is a major industry. You can do all the marketing and strategies in the world, have all hotels renovate big time but without the lift capacity to bring people here, all your efforts will be for nothing,” Hannemann said.

He added that this requires very close dialogue and personal relationship with airlines, cruise ships and other transportation providers.

8. Work facility and infrastructure

He said that this have to be upgraded because it would be difficult to lure investors if these issues are not addressed.

9-10. Visa waivers and Destination America

Hannemann said the special visa program for China and Russia is a significant issue.

“It is important for the country to have the flexibility of visas because tourists and visitors will go somewhere else if they will have a hard time with visa waiver policies,” Hannemann said.

In Hawaii, they have the Hawaii-Japan visa waiver policy which encourages the Japanese tourists to come back again and again because they are treated well and made to feel welcome.

“You should market your place as a destination to the international market,’ he said. He added that Hawaii sets aside a portion of the visa fees to market the destination internationally.

“The CNMI is in a great position to take advantage of that. I believe that the best days are ahead for tourism in the CNMI,” Hannemann said.

In connection with the visa waiver issue, Lynn Knight of Management Analysis Inc., an international consulting team that is working on the CNMI Tourism Master Plan for 2012-2016, said the CNMI must take good care of its Chinese and Russian tourists.

“We should really take good care of our tourists and make sure they would love their experience here, that they encounter no problems and they can go home safe,” Knight said.

She said every country in the world is looking at China right now as a major tourism market.

“China and Russia are the two emerging tourism outbound markets that are going as fast as any other destination. Every country wants to attract tourists from China, they are the number one source of tourists for Australia, and we’re not that far behind them,” she said.{jcomments off}

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