A short drive to the northern part of the island on Friday noon with businessman Bud White gave the Variety a whole new perspective about how tourists see the island.
White, who has been living in the island for the past three decades, said that while the government is spending millions of dollars promoting the CNMI as a prime tourist destination yet the government has neglected to maintain existing facilities where millions of dollars had been poured into.
Approaching the Last Command Post, a vacant space gaped at the area where signs and maps should have been occupying to help people understand where they are and what role the place played during the World War II.
“Signs could be put up here with translations in Korean, Japanese, Russian, Chinese and other languages so that everybody will understand what they are looking at,” White said.
Tourists who come with companies are dropped off at the historical sites for a few minutes to take quick pictures before rushing off to another site.
“Tourism is best promoted by word of mouth, and if the tourists did not understand where they were, how can you expect them to spread the word around and lure more tourists here?” White said.
The stop sign with invisible marks at the intersection of Magpi Parkway heading to the landfill area and Kalabera Road screams for attention.
A closer inspection will show the very faint word “STOP” in the octagonal board but motorists cannot be expected to go down and read the invisible sign.
“This could cause accidents, especially for those who are not familiar with the area,” White said.
Driving toward the Grotto, another sign along the road was almost obscured by the tall tangan-tangan branches on the roadside.
Yet another sign announcing a “Conservation Area” is tilting at a dangerous angle, ready to fall down anytime.
At the intersection going down to the Grotto, somebody decided to scratch out the paint and replace the STOP sign with the big letters PMW in blue ink.
White said that if the stakeholders of the tourism industry consider road signs and maintenance of these signs as just a minor concern, they should think again.
The signs, White said, are just some of the signs of trouble at the island’s main tourist sites, but the list of problems is still long.
Along with the neglected signs are the neglected roadsides which White described would take a few minutes of commitment and dedication to clear away the vines and plants that threaten to cover the road.
“Anyone who drives up to the northern part of the island will see that the roadsides are almost obscured by overgrowth of bushes. If you are a tourist, you will expect something more from a place that is spending so much on advertising abroad,” White said.
The historical sites in Marpi such as the Last Command Post, Banzai Cliff, Suicide Cliff, the Grotto, and the Bird Island host hundreds of tourists from other countries every day and these hundreds could multiply if they are satisfied with what they see here.
White said that stakeholders in the tourism industry and the government should consider doing a real troubleshooting on the island’s tourism sites and see what needs to be done here first.
Touching on the neglected road signs in Marpi’s tourist sites is just tapping on the tip of the iceberg.
White said that there are more immediate issues that need to be addressed in these tourist sites such as safety of the visitors and more. He said that with businesses closing and investors pulling out, tourism is the only remaining industry in the CNMI.
“If we don’t take care of it, whatever will happen to this island?” White said.