BY RIANNE PEREDO
Journal Staff

Leon Guerrero

Nadine Leon Guerrero, director of global marketing for the Guam Visitors Bureau, said pursuing Asian markets outside of Japan and Korea is a focus for the organization in 2020, which include Singapore and Malaysia. Leon Guerrero said both markets are a “great opportunity” for GVB because Guam would not be competing with U.S. destinations for visitors.

“New market development for countries that are a part of the Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Program, such as Malaysia and Singapore, is something we are also working on,” Leon Guerrero said. The program involves 12 participating nations whose citizens can travel to Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands and remain for a maximum of 45 days; the process includes submitting the required forms and possessing nontransferable round-trip airline tickets.

Currently, there are no direct flights from Singapore and Malaysia to Guam. However, arrivals from both countries appear to be gaining momentum, according to a GVB visitor arrival statistics report. For Singapore arrivals, there was a 68% increase in 2018 from January to October for a total of 785 visitors to 1,321 visitors from January to October 2019. For Malaysia arrivals, there was an 18% increase in 2018 from January to October for a total of 266 visitors to 315 visitors from January to October 2019.

A recent military effort will likely add to these numbers in the next decade. In December 2019, U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Singapore’s Minister of Defense Ng Eng Hen signed an agreement to add Guam on a list of U.S. and international locations where the Republic of Singapore Air Force personnel train. From 2029, a Singaporean permanent fighter training detachment is planned to be established on Guam.

Thomas C. Ada, executive manager of the Antonio B. Won Pat International Airport, Guam, said it will only increase the number of visitors from Singapore. “It will be more of a positive impact — more families will fly in and it brings additional travelers to Guam.”

Ada also said that GVB and the airport have collaborative efforts regarding tourism. “Airport officials may go out with GVB [for] their marketing [delegations],” said Ada. Additionally, the airport has a representative, Milton K. Morinaga, who is the chairman of GVB’s Air Service Development Committee.

GVB posted a survey online to receive feedback from the public, its stakeholders and professionals in 2019, which was open from Nov. 1 to Dec. 31. The survey results will aid GVB in the development of its 2025 plan via evaluation of its Tourism 2020 plan. The 2020 plan mentioned Singapore in its second core objective, grow arrivals and diversity, where it was classified as a “new and emerging market.” 

Robert Alvarez, vice president of GVB, said the survey will impact the visitors forecast of what will happen in 2020. “GVB has been making historical numbers. [In 2019,] there were 160,000 [visitor] arrivals,” he said. “[Guam has] always been a favorite spot for Koreans and Japanese. The Chinese market has been stagnant; we are focusing on core markets.”

Alvarez also said a core strength of GVB is its ability to create opportunities to expand and increase visitor arrivals from the target markets. “We find [new] routes in Japan and Korea to filter into Guam. [Low cost carrier] airlines and legacy ones are necessary.” (See “Full-time flights: GVB looks to make Jeju Air route from Muan, Korea permanent” in the Dec. 23, 2019 issue of the Journal for more details.)

Guam’s tourism market has undergone changes, as evidenced by a report compiled by Anthology Marketing Group for GVB. (See “Guam tourism surveys show changes in industry” in the March 18, 2019 issue of the Journal for more details.) The report’s findings of exit surveys from Korean and Japanese visitors showed a shift in attitudes and perceptions of Guam. Some visitors had concerns about safety issues, while others expressed dissatisfaction about nighttime activities.

With the upcoming 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan, Alvarez said GVB has discussed its impact on Guam’s visitor arrivals.

“We have to react to [market] fluctuations — how we can continue the consistency of visitor arrivals,” Alvarez said. The consistency of those arrivals includes a push for more charter flights between Japan and Guam this summer, despite the Olympics. mbj