Guam’s strategic importance to the U.S. military is yielding strategic opportunities for businesses in many sectors of the local economy. Prospects for tour operators and other service-industry companies have begun to bear fruit. One example is the awarding of an exclusive five-year on-base operating contract to MWR Travel Tours & Ticketing — a subsidiary of Pactours Inc.

On July 15 MWR Travel began operations as a full-spectrum travel agency at the naval base becoming the Navy’s leisure tour service provider on Guam. It is the only company offering destination management services to military personnel and dependents allowed to operate within Guam’s naval base.

With only one representative carrying out Pactours’ on-base operations the company still captures a lion’s share of the potential market for their services to date. “Right now we have 50% of the naval market ” Ana Marie Megino operations manager for MWR Travel and Pactours told the Journal.

“As far as inbound [service personnel] I believe that we’re getting most of the demand for inbound inside the naval base ” she said. Inbound personnel account for 30% of her company’s military business with ticket sales and on-base residents comprising around 50% and 20% of business respectively. The remaining personnel typically make their own arrangements for accommodations while on Guam she said.

One truism for the military market is that its personnel arrive on Guam ready to spend. “They want a car they want to play golf they want to avail themselves of different kinds of tours they want hotel accommodations … the demand right now is increasing ” Megino said. While MWR Travel’s operations are still at a fledgling stage Megino estimated that her company sees between $110 and $200 per incoming service member using MWR Travel’s services depending on the length of stay.

MWR Travel is able to offer military personnel value because of its “special contracted rates. The purpose of being there is to be able to give it to service members lower than what is outside there in the market ” Megino said. Popular products include discounted tickets for attractions such as Tarza water park and Atlantis submarine tours.

Locally owned Pactours has been operating on Guam since 1993. Initially a tour company it expanded to become a full-service travel agency. Headed by Joseph Cruz president the agency has five employees and has been the passenger sales agent of Thai Airlines since 1998.

Because of the efficiency of its operations Megino said Pactours has continued to offer prices comparable to what “is being offered there in Manila. For Thai Airways we offer the same thing.”

Megino is positive about the future and other products the company intends to offer. “My goal is to make the company expand — going in to packaging destinations creating packages for high-demand destinations to continue to give special deals for off-line carrier tickets.” Popular destinations for the island’s military personnel include Australia Bali and Thailand Megino said. MBJ