Friday, October 12, 2007

Top Story, Front Page of Stars & Stripes - Again!

Ok, now I really believe that the U.S. military is serious about trying to encourage the soldiers stationed on Guam to come to Saipan, Rota or Tinian for some Rest & Relaxation, or R&R as they call it. The proof is in the pudding as they say. For the 2nd week in a row one of my stories is on the front page of Guam Stripes, and not only is it the only story on the front page, it has 3 pictures on the front page alone. I wrote a story for them about our world class nudibranch diving in the Grotto, and sure enough, they are running in the 10/14 edition of Guam Stripes. The Halgerda guahan pictured above is blown up into a big picture for the front page story. The story should be posted online by Sunday at the latest, so if you want to see it, you can go to the Stars & Stripes link and then just click on Guam Stripes. As soon as it has the 10/14 edition of Guam Stripes up you'll be able to read the story and see the pictures. One thing I will point out is that the editors took their scissors to my story and cut it down substantially, but that's ok, the most important stuff is still there.

Now I think it's great that the military is going out of their way to try letting the service men and women and their families know what is available on Saipan, but I think we still have some work ahead of us in order to really be able to benefit from all this free exposure. One of our biggest problems is that the flights back and forth are outrageously expensive. Continental Micronesia continues to take advantage of us through Cape Air and charge outrageous amounts for the short flight between Guam and Saipan. I know there are several businessmen who are in the process of putting together a regional airline that will be based in the CNMI and will not only run back and forth between the islands, but will also service some of the destinations that are currently underserved by the other airlines. The only problem is I hear it may be 2 years before we see this airline actually operating.

One of the other problems is that we don't really have any businesses set up to cater to the military. We need dive shops and guides who cater to the English speaking military personnel and their families. We need mountain bike rental shops that will rent bikes to them when they want to come over for a weekend of riding and have trail maps that make it easy for them to set out on their own adventures. We need hotels that want to put together some special packages that make it attractive and affordable for them. Those in the know are saying that the main way the CNMI will benefit from the military build up on Guam is through tourism from the military personnel. We're not getting that many military visitors right now, but are we really doing everything we can to entice them to come over? I think this is a matter that needs to be carefully looked at and discussed in the very near future by Marianas Visitors Authority and various businesses on Saipan. I'd hate to see us squander what could be a very good opportunity, and a lot of free advertising.