David B. Tydingco will step down as president of the Guam Hotel & Restaurant Association at the end of December.

After more than 13 years he will represent a variety of tourism-related businesses starting with Cognitive IT which has itself become a member of GHRA and will operate in both technology and hospitality. "That’s one of the things I’m going to be doing " Tydingco said declining to say more at present.

Tydingco did not accept a position as spokesman for Guam Greyhound Park which he was offered earlier in the year but told the Journal that his decision to leave GHRA was not prompted by that or any other offer.

"I made the decision in September way before John Baldwin and the guys asked me to consider that."

Tydingco became president of GHRA in 1994 at a time when the job was a part-time position with one part-time support employee. "We took the organization from there and hopefully made it a larger part of the community " he said.

Guam’s tourism industry faced considerable challenges during Tydingco’s tenure:

Typhoon Paka in 1997 Chata’an and Pongsona in 2002; 9/11; and the threats of SARS and avian influenza; but he said there are some memories that stand out.

"In the early days we [in tourism] did step up to the plate. There were rolling blackouts in 1994 and 1995. Our schoolchildren were being affected. As an organization we got together and said "˜We are probably the largest organization on Guam why don’t we give back to the community?’ For about six months the members withdrew from the power grid."

GHRA members were similarly generous when boil water notices and low water pressure problems hit the island in 1996 Tydingco said. "The ability to pool resources is what I think is one of our greatest assets."

One somber event remains at the forefront of his memory. "We also felt the pain when KAL 801 went into the hills [on Aug. 6 1997]. I was down at the Pacific Star [now the Marriott] and having to talk to relatives who said "˜Please get me there. I have to touch the soil and bring closure.’"

Post-Pongsona Tydingco remembers the industry’s response to the fire at the Mobil terminal at the Port of Guam which caused a gasoline shortage on island. "We put together a mass transit system "¦ so people could get to work and fix their businesses."

The damage to the island led GHRA to launch Na La Bonita Guam the beautification program he said. The program began with a cleanup and a meeting on Jan. 25 2003. "I took my son with me. We took pictures "¦ and we gathered at PIC. We rolled it out and we did it every quarter. This island is a lot prettier. I can look back and say we did the right thing."

As to marketing Tydingco said promoting Micronesia as a group destination made sense. "We’re all bound by a common thread that brought us together many years ago "" first trusteeship and now there is the Compact of Free Association. We should be able to take advantage of that strength and uniqueness and tell the world "˜Come to Micronesia.’"

Tydingco said Guam’s challenges include U.S. visa legislation distance and a delivery system to bring tourists.

"Continental is the single largest carrier [in our region] and has chosen Guam to be one of its major hubs. Arrivals to Guam will not be dependent on whether airlines put seats into to Guam.They will be largely dependent on whether there is going to be a demand for this destination. Airlines can take their assets and move them wherever there is a market."

In Guam he said "We need to focus strategy not simply to attract airlines but to drive the demand "¦ we spend millions of dollars marketing in the various gateways; we should be equally passionate about developing our resources and fixing our product."

From an organization that primarily organized fireworks on New Year’s Eve Tydingco said GHRA has become a part of the community

"Back in 1994 we were known as "˜the firecracker people.’ Today people recognize tourism as a larger part of our lives "¦ as an organization we represent a diverse membership and diverse interests."

While not ruling out his future entry to politics Tydingco said the time is not right. "I never say "˜Never.’ There’s been a lot of pressure on me to do it but it’s got to be on my terms. It’s got to be because I’m passionate about it."

Tydingco will still work for the tourism industry through the Guam Visitors Bureau of which he is presently chairman but he said it has been a privilege to serve the industry. "I have learned to appreciate and understand what the tourism industry has contributed to the quality of life on Guam. Anybody in the industry in any location has to be there for the good of the community."

He also paid tribute to the hard work that comes from the GHRA committees and the generosity of the hospitality industry organization. "Many of the members do many great things that are unsung and help many organizations."

Leona Young administrative manager; has been at GHRA for the same length of time. Tydingco said "She is the bedrock of keeping this place together." Of the staff of four he said "These ladies epitomize the definition of customer service. That comes from all the people that deal with them." MBJ