Mustafa Issa general manager for the Hyatt Regency Guam; has accepted a position as general manager of the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Osaka. With the Hyatt chain for over 28 years 11 of which have been spent on Saipan and Guam Issa has become quite familiar with the dynamics of Micronesian tourism. Due to leave in late March he shared some parting words on the Hyatt Guam tourism the people of Guam and what he has learned from the experience.
Having served as general manager for the Hyatt Regency Saipan five years prior to his six-year stint on Guam Issa tends to view the two islands as interconnected.
"Whatever happens on Guam happens on Saipan and vice versa " Issa said. "The Marianas Islands have a distinct advantage of being in close proximity to Japan and no one can take that away. Guam and Saipan are safe and clean and have been a choice destination for both short visits and extended stays and will be for many years to come."
Issa took time to explain what he refers to as "the seven-year cycle."
"In [Micronesian] tourism we feel the past has shown us that the industry has a cycle. It appears that every seven to eight years or so the economy seems to increase or decrease " Issa said. "We had the Asian economy collapse 9/11 SARS and the typhoon [Pongsona] so we have had our share of disaster but I think we are looking at the upward side of the cycle. By 2008 we will see some good times."
Issa is famous for spending a lot of time on the floor of the Hyatt. He can often be found but in the lobby out greeting guests and talking to his customers. He said he feels that in order to truly lead one must do it by example. Issa said the most effective way to do this is not in the office but on the floor.
Confident about the Hyatt’s place in Guam tourism Issa told the Journal of its purchase by Japan-based Ken Corp. in November. Ken Corp. owns hotels in the mainland U.S. Japan and Saipan. The corporation also has some other plans on Guam namely a five-star project on the site of the old Palace Hotel the Sheraton Laguna. However this confidence is not without its share of responsibility.
"Naturally these investors have an expectation " he said. "and that is to increase the capital gain of the property. That has been the objective [of Ken Corp.] from Day 1. We must position ourselves as a five-star destination to the Japanese " he said. "We want to put an end to this image of Guam as a "˜cheap destination ‘ and attract the big spenders of Japan; it is our responsibility to the investors. If you have one big spender visiting Guam it can be as much as ten budget spenders " he said. "Can you imagine if we had ten big spenders?"
Issa has a few ideas about how this can be accomplished such as a higher restaurant quality and standard equipment upgrades.
Issa’s efforts are not only focused on the Japanese or solely on the Hyatt but on Guam tourism as a whole. He served as a member of the Guam Hotel and Restaurant Association from 2001 to 2005 and had much to say of his experience on the board. Issa said that GHRA is "the best thing to happen to this industry " due in part to the ease with which hoteliers can contact other GHRA members. He said he believes Mary P. Torre new president of GHRA will make a fine addition.
Issa told the Journal the responsibility to breathe life into the tourism industry should extend to other individuals as well.
"I think the government’s part in tourism has been helpful but they need to do more " he said. "The first family would be excellent to promote the island " he said. [Felix P.] Camacho has done work in tourism before; we need to see more of that. We must remember that we have what the Japanese want "" a clean and safe environment. The first lady can personally invite Japanese women the first children can invite Japanese children " he said. "Who better to invite tourists to the island than the first family?"
"The Guam Visitors Bureau can also be an important department to help Guam’s economy " he added. "They’ve been having some difficulties the past few years but I believe the problems are getting worked out."
Issa commented on some other issues he would like the government of Guam to address as well.
"It has become very expensive to run a business on Guam and it forces us to raise prices " he said. "While the local community is very understanding of this we need some help from the government. Maybe they can put a cap on the expenses such as electricity or water before it gets out of control."
Though he prefers the term "entertainment district " Issa is a proponent of the red light district proposal. While it can be "entertaining to some guests " Issa said placing adult-oriented retailers in the heart of Tumon is "unwise."
Committed to seeing tourism grow even after his departure Issa spoke on some of the options Guam’s next generation has in taking the reins of the island’s most important industry. He spoke of the Hyatt’s place in the education of Guam’s future and its commitment to offering full-paid scholarships.
"I don’t think training is really the issue I think it’s that there are not enough people interested " Issa said. "It seems that the excitement to travel overseas to the mainland U.S. overtakes any local interest and the young people don’t really appreciate the island yet."
In parting Issa expressed his appreciation for Guam and commented on his upcoming position.
"The whole industry works closely here " he said. "Hotels compare operations and service gets improved. There is tremendous talent here "" foreign talent brought in and the talent of the beautiful people of Guam."
Issa described the Hyatt Regency Osaka as a "convention hotel" that primarily serves local businessmen during the week and those looking for a weekend quick getaway. However the 500-room hotel is an official hotel of the Osaka Universal Studios and is located in the center of Osaka’s commercial district and a short ferry ride from Kyoto Japan’s historic previous capital city. MBJ