ON August 21, more than 30 private and public organizations on Saipan were recognized as they joined the Hafa Adai & Tirow Pledge campaign that encourages stakeholders to preserve, perpetuate, and promote the indigenous Chamorro and Carolinian cultures and traditions.

The Hafa & Adai Tirow Pledge was first launched on Saipan in May and was followed by the Tinian and Rota unveiling in June. The GCEA capped its summer-long anniversary celebrations on Saipan with a recognition ceremony for its valued partners in the Public Private Partnership program, all of whom signed up for the Hafa & Adai Tirow Pledge, making this the largest pledge event to date. The partners’ pledge represented more than 600 residents.

In the past year, GCEA’s PPP allies have adopted more than 60 tourist sites and village facilities throughout the three islands. As they continue to honor their commitments to the PPP initiative, they are also taking on another responsibility — living and promoting the values of the Marianas’ local cultures. The Hafa Adai & Tirow Pledge’s main proponents, the Saipan Chamber of Commerce, the Marianas Visitors Authority, and the GCEA see the campaign as a way to keep the local cultures alive and thriving in everyday experiences and serve as a critical tool for the recovery and sustainability of our tourism industry. If we do this right, visitors to the Marianas will experience cultural authenticity, feel the warm hospitality, taste local foods, and hear our languages spoken through many touchpoints.

Culture and tourism are linked because the former makes the destination distinct in the latter’s crowded and highly competitive global market. Our local culture is what sets us apart from other popular destinations and proves that the Marianas is more than just an island getaway. We have a community that could provide our visitors authentic cultural experiences they are longing for. The Marianas has individuals and groups that could show tourists our way of life through many forms — arts and crafts, food, fairs and festivals, sports, music and performances, and conversations/communications.

A study published in 2006 to gauge Japanese tourists’ satisfaction and experiences of the cultural heritage attractions in the Marianas found that they had the “lack of ability to actually experience the various elements of culture” and had an even “stronger intention to experience them during future visits.”

Through the Hafa & Adai Tirow Pledge, other related programs, and the support of our community, we hope to give all our visitors “actual cultural experiences."

Understandably, these culture and tradition promotions will take a lot of effort and resources from our public and private partners to implement, but there’s one best practice for the Hafa & Adai Tirow Pledge that won’t require one to break the bank — greeting visitors and fellow residents with a smile.

Saipan is the first island to welcome visitors to the Marianas.  A warm greeting at the Francisco C. Ada Saipan International Airport would certainly make a visitor feel welcomed in our beautiful islands as they look forward to sightseeing and “life-seeing” experiences in the CNMI.

Let’s show them our Hafa Adai & Tirow spirit and proudly represent our island’s culture and traditions.

For more information, visit the GCEA at cnmieconomy.com, on Facebook and Instagram (@cnmigov.economy), or contact them at gceacnmi@gmail.com

Mike Sablan is vice president of Triple J Enterprises Inc. and chairperson of the Domestic Policy and Recovery Committee of the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisers. As an advisory council for Gov. Ralph DLG Torres and Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios, the GCEA’s mission is to improve the quality of life in the Marianas for all residents.

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