Beautiful beaches. Pristine waters (no red flags please). Friendly locals. Clean buildings. Friendly, consistent laws for investors. Promotion of eco-tourism ...Why can't our leaders understand the basic building blocks of tourism???
I want to add my own thoughts to this excellent start.
No litter. Sufficient trash bins that are emptied regularly. Bike/walking paths that link all of the beaches and that are kept in good repair, with working lights at night. Bike patrolling police officers. Pala palas, concrete picnic tables and benches, and occasionaly restrooms that are maintained in good working order. (Personally, I don't actually mind graffiti, so long as it isn't racist, pornographic, ugly or vulgar, so I don't add that to my short list.)
Pristine waters, and I would add, teeming with healthy marine life in a balanced eco-system.
Strong enforcement by sufficient numbers of well-qualified, educated and trained marine protection officers. An end to tour guides who encourage our tourists to buy little hot dogs and other food to feed the fishies. Balance of our tourist interests in diving and "seeing" marine life with our local interests in fishing derbies and personal consumption. (I think we're doing this now, but accidentally, not intentionally.)
Bring back cultural Fridays. Put an end to price-gouging--allow competition in the taxi industry, for example. Encourage a return to the small stands selling leis and mwar-mwars; promote more local crafts.
Clean buildings, clean roads.
Zoning that simply requires clean frontage on the roads, trimmed grass, a neat look. And then also no more road kill! Let's require licenses for ALL animals (yes, even chickens and pigs, etc.). The license fee can be very low, but the purpose is to make people accountable. We'd need more enforcement officers (dog catchers!) and an animal control shelter (dog pound) for strays, but better this than more painful death on the highways. And on the subject of roads, let's make sure we have a sewer system, and drainage system that works. AND SIDEWALKS. We need sidewalks everywhere. And then we'll see more pedestrian traffic, and more tourists.
Friendly, consistent laws for investors.
Well, for everyone! One of the least friendly kinds of law is the one that is built on corruption and graft. We need more prosecution of fraudulent procurement practices. We need fewer sole source deals. We need open government. (And you'll notice I don't say we need an end to Article XII. Right now, investors of non-NMI descent can get 55 year leases. If we start promoting small businesses--as Ed mentions, the backbone of healthy local economies--we can feel confident that 55 years is not an unreasonable length of time for a business life, and sufficient to encourage investment at the level we need.)
Promotion of eco-tourism.
We've been handed a golden opportunity with the declaration of the Marianas Trench Marine Monument. Now we need to be pushing the federal government to make good on this potential. (Imho, that also means we need to go for what would be best in the LONG run, and that means NOAA Sanctuaries as the lead agency for the monument.) We also need to protect and promote our cultural sites--our latte stones and caves. And we could take a note from Hawaii, where the PUBLIC LIBRARY is an agency that promotes their tourism industry, with short-term library cards for tourists, with tons of informational brochures on the cultures and history of the islands, and more.
There is a lot more we could be doing, but if we did even some of this, we'd be heading in the right direction. It's also about not going off on irrelevant and harmful tangents.
It's all about where we start. But since we could be/should be getting some of the Recovery Act money, let's push for expenditures for these kinds of programs.