Guess who’s paying for MVA’s junket to Malaysia. Yup. You.

By Mabel Doge Luhan

I just learned from my wheelman (the one who’s bi-curious) that MVA was in Japan at the same time as TAYLOR SWIFT. ALL IS FORGIVEN. I knew it was a bit early for Sakura season! How was Eras? Did you have to pay for the tickets yourselves, or did an ad agency or tour company do you a solid? I loved Gulliver’s Travels!

I can only hope that MVA’s upcoming vacation to Langkawi, Malaysia is equally fruitful! Did you hear? They’re going to be in the tropical luxury paradise of Langkawi February 27-29 (plus a few more days to get over jetlag, of course).

Which hotel will they be glamorously occupying? I haven’t received details of the staff’s bookings, but the event itself will be held at the Parkroyal Langkawi Resort. I hope it’s good enough for the MVA team! And what a bargain, at only $465 a night.

“Located on the longest stretch of beach in Langkawi, Parkroyal Langkawi Resort is a collection of 300 modern guest rooms, suites, and 7 spacious exclusive villas, each equipped with unique facilities and amenities. Each villa features a private plunge pool with direct access to the beach. Dining options include Lancava, a specialty restaurant, an all-day dining restaurant, CASSIA, an Ocean View Lounge, and a swim-up bar.”

A private plunge pool! Simply brilliant!

Aside from the $500 a night hotel rooms and the $1,500 or so (depending on which option they chose) conference pass, getting to Langkawi is a tad expensive — it’s an island archipelago not easily accessible from the mainland, sort of like the CNMI (remember that place, Chris?). But when has that ever stopped the MVA? Just getting to Kuala Lumpur from Saipan is $2,700 roundtrip (if they fly coach) — figure another $1,000 each way from Kuala Lumpur to Langkawi. But who cares about public funds when there’s a private plunge pool waiting!

The travel is for the good of the Commonwealth, right? And there is absolutely no way to derive all this benefit without incurring all this travel expense, right? Airlines don’t have videoconferencing or email or phone or even postal mail, right?

It will be absolutely crucial for MVA to visit a convention where a bunch of startup Asian air carriers — almost all of which are not licensed to fly into the US and therefore couldn’t fly to the CNMI even if they wanted to — get courted by destinations offering them waived landing fees and the like. Well, we certainly are good at giveaways, aren’t we?

And how exactly are we going to court all these airlines (who can’t fly to the US anyway)? “We have a really nice island, too bad nobody wants to go there, announce a route and we’ll buy you dinner”? What are we going to tell them that they don’t already know? Or what promises — along the lines of the massive corporate welfare handed out during the “Korean travel bubble” — will MVA make to these airlines?

It seems the MVA folks have been attending this convention for years, in all of its spectacular, scenic locations! And look at all the “airline seats” it has gotten us! Remember all those Australian tourists who were coming here? And those Malaysian tourists too! Remember back when Asiana used to fly here? And oh my, JAL is going to be at this convention — that’ll be just a bit awkward! Look down at your phone if they try to make eye contact.

At least we’ll get our money’s worth of irony. A few days in Langkawi will remind the MVA folks exactly why nobody is lining up to fly to the CNMI, and the alternative destinations they have to visit. Such as Langkawi.

Does a ten-minute taxi ride cost $50 in Langkawi? Does a dumpy 1970s-vintage hotel with surly service and rusty brown water cost $300 a night in Langkawi? Do the airport bathrooms have soap in Langkawi?  Are there restaurants open later than 9 PM in Langkawi? Does the downtown tourist area of Langkawi look like Kabul? Then maybe the MVA folks should be working on making us as attractive a tourism destination as Langkawi instead of flying off to enjoy the splendor of Langkawi?

And yet here we are, competing against places like Langkawi, and a million similar tropical destinations — thinking that we are somehow magically entitled to all these tourists. And even worse, thinking that if by some slip of luck, some airline decides to fly to the CNMI, those flights will somehow be filled with tourists — because tourists just hop on whatever flights have “seats,” and not to where they actually want to go.

Most CNMI government agencies can’t envision a competitive market environment. MVA doesn’t have to worry about competing against actual ad agencies. Chris Concepcion doesn’t have to worry about competing against other candidates for the job.

And Saipan’s tourism “authorities” can’t imagine that tourists have thousands of potential beach destinations they could visit — with bathrooms cleaner than ours, beaches better equipped than ours, hotels cheaper than ours, taxis more honest than ours, and tourism authorities more effective than ours.


Mabel Doge Luhan is a woman of loose morals. She resides in Kagman V, where she pursues her passions of crocheting, beatboxing, and falconry.


  • Joe Must Go

      02/10/2024 at 11:41 PM

    I like the fact that you are questioning the MVA and certain individuals, but keep in mind – certain room rates can be negotiated and are usually highly discounted to those affilitated in the tourism industry (also group discounts). Same with airfare? So maybe directly ask the MVA if they would voluntarily provide you with a breakdown of their expenditures? I don’t have time to do the research, but it would seem common sense that the MVA should be put under a “sunshine law” which would require them to post that information on their website in “monthly” reports (instead of that late after the fact (annual?) – Citizens Centric Report? Maybe that would help “reign in” any questionable expenses (by observations of local residents and / or others).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *