MVA board approves tour-guide certification rules

THE Marianas Visitors Authority board has approved the rules and regulations for a tour-guide-certification program.

With the increase in tourist arrivals and the number of tour companies conducting business in the CNMI, MVA feels the need to better oversee the situation, its managing director Chris Concepcion said.

“This is going to be a learning process for everyone, MVA included, but we cannot keep putting it off,” he added. “We ask for everyone’s patience and understanding as we implement this program for the benefit of our visitors, our residents and our tourism industry as a whole.”

Marianas Visitors Authority Managing Director Chris Concepcion makes a presentation during the Saipan Chamber of Commerce membership meeting, Wednesday, at the Pacific Islands Club. Photo by Cherrie Anne E. Villahermosa

The law that created the tour-guide-certification program has been on the statute books for several years now, he added.

Concepcion said it is necessary for tour guides to be trained and certified so that they are informed about CNMI history and culture,   environmental protection and anti-littering laws, how to protect tourists from harm, and acceptable etiquette while in the CNMI.

The program will deal with the general do’s and don’ts for tourists who visit the CNMI, he added.

“We want them to know and respect our commonwealth, our people and our environment. It is highly important for us that we get this program underway.”

MVA board legal counsel Martin Delos Angeles said their objective in implementing the program is to promote the goals of MVA, advance the public interest and protect visitors.

“There are potential First Amendment or due process issues so we looked at other jurisdiction that have rules for tour guides. Some tour guides say ‘You can’t tell us what to say and what not to say,’ ” Delos Angeles told the board.

MVA board vice chair Vincent Calvo asked management if it is ready to enforce the program.

Concepcion said the rules and regulations will allow other agencies such as the Bureau of Environmental and Coastal Quality, Coastal Resource Management and the Department of Public Safety to enforce them.

Concepcion said Northern Marianas College will conduct the training course for tour guides.

The course topics include CNMI history, post-war, CNMI geography, CNMI culture and legends, protecting the environment, principles of tour guiding, tour guide customer service, tour operations and tour guide safety and security.

As NMC is equipped with the instructors and educational facilities needed for this type of program, they have agreed to partner with MVA to make this program a reality, Concepcion said, adding that the college will charge a minimal fee to recoup costs.

“We could not have done this without NMC’s support, so we extend our thanks to them for their help,” Concepcion said.

The 20-hour training course will be spread out over a week and a written examination will be administered, he added.

If the guide passes the course, NMC will notify MVA and they will issue a badge certifying that the person is an Official Marianas Guide, Concepcion said,

Tour companies that fail to comply with the law will face civil and/or criminal penalties, including the revocation of their business licenses.

The proposed rules and regulations are published in the CNMI Register, and the public has 30 days to review them and submit comments.

Once the regulations are adopted, Concepcion said there will be a grace period to allow tour guides to comply with the law.

Source: Marianas Variety :

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