MilCon for Tinian off the table
Bidders on the Tinian Divert Airfield were sent an April 6 letter from Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Pacific advising them that the Tinian Divert Airfield military construction is canceled.
According to Journal sources, the letter said that it “… has been determined to reject all proposals and cancel the subject RFP.”
A beyond budget cost is the reason, according to Journal files.
More than 1,600 SBA PPP loans for the Mariana Islands
The U.S. Small Business Administration’s number of Paycheck Protection Plan loans as of April 4, were 1,202 for Guam for a total of $89,435,19 and 403 for the Northern Mariana Islands for a total of $23,718,717.
NMI edging towards tourism re-opening date; discussing vaccine verification with Guam
While airlines from Korea are ready to fly to the Northern Mariana Islands in May, Gov. Ralph DLG. Torres told the Journal during an April 9 news briefing that “ … realistically we’re looking at mid-June” to re-open for tourism. He said that “both LLCs and scheduled airlines” have expressed interest in flying to the NMI from Korea.
According to Journal files, Seoul headquartered E-Land Group expressed interest in a tourism bubble for its properties, which include Pacific Islands Club Saipan, the Kensington Hotel Saipan and Coral Ocean Golf Resort.
The Marianas Visitors Authority has reinstated its marketing offices, Priscilla M. Iakopo, managing director told the Journal on April 9. “We actually have an ongoing contract with them.” MVA has reinstated offices in Taiwan, Korea and Japan (in February), she said. As to demand from the Japan market, Iakopo said, “We’ve been hearing a lot of talk about the leisure flights.” However, she said, the Japanese government does not want its residents to travel until after the Olympics, which will be held from July 23 to Aug. 8. Athletes only will come to Japan. The country recently began to vaccinate citizens aged 65 and above.
Torres said of the re-opening, “We know we will have herd immunity here. This will allow everybody to push for a date.” Esther L. Muna, CEO of the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. said herd immunity for the NMI would be “when we get to 80%.” As regards dropping quarantine for tourists, there are no specifics available yet, Muna said, “We’ve been in discussion on that,” she said.
As of April 9, 32% of NMI residents have been fully vaccinated, with 44% receiving one dose. Vaccinations will continue next week in Saipan, Tinian and Rota, with dose available for the 16-plus age group, as is the case in Saipan. Previously, vaccination was available for 18 years and up.
Muna has also discussed with Arthur San Agustin, director of the Guam Department of Public Health and Social Services, any verification of vaccination for NMI residents who have had vaccinations in Guam, so that they may home quarantine.
In addition, the two discussed quarantine for Saipan arrivals in Guam, against the background of the NMI COVID cluster, which saw 11 cases identified between March 12 and March 17. “He said it would be good to see the status of that.” An April 8 release from the Office of the Governor in the NMI verified that there is no community spread from the cluster.
In other NMI news, the NMI (like Guam) is still waiting for the latest stimulus funds to arrive, as well as funding for lost wages assistance funding. Both Torres and David DLG Atalig, director of the NMI Department of Finance emphasized the NMI is ready to disperse funds. Atalig said the NMI has about 33,000 recipients of stimulus finds, of which 10,500 will receive fund through direct deposit. “Not as many as we hoped,” he said. Some of the American Recover Plan Act funds have a relation to the NMI budget of $144.84 million, as they will be used to return government staff to a full working week. “We still have some fiscal restraint measures in place,” Atalig said.
Travel and tourism updates:
- The Guam Visitors Bureau recently awarded Glimpses Advertising the communications strategist opportunity for Guam’s source markets by the Guam Visitors Bureau.
At the GVB board meeting on April 8, Glimpses shared its plan for the source markets, which includes three phases over the next six months, culminating in the reimagination of the Hafa Adai Spirit.
Phase one, focused on the acceleration of public vaccines, will be in effect until the end of May; phase two, which brings awareness of safety protocols for keeping a safe community to the mix, will take place during June and July; and the third phase will come in to play in August and September, and this phase’s goal is to determine cultural aspirations. “We want to build upon the Hafa Adai spirit that GVB has had … We want to focus on reimagining that spirit and what that means to our source markets,” said Marcos Fong, managing director of Glimpses of Guam Inc., which does business as Glimpses Advertising and Glimpses Media.
The International Tennis Federation and the Guam National Tennis Federation plan to bring two professional and two junior tennis tournaments to island, spread out over a month, between May 21 and June 19. The economic benefit to these tournaments is a total of 2,700 hotel room nights, raking in an estimated $344,250 profit for the island. GVB Vice President Gerald S.A. Perez said the most important aspect in this proposed tournament series is harmonizing the ITF’s return to competition protocols with the Guam Department of Health and Social Services requirements. “If we support this event, it can really help us in many ways… The PR optics are invaluable to depict Guam as a safe tourist destination,” Perez said.
Along with the electronic customs form, which will officially launch on May 1, there will be a digitized arrival form for arriving passengers to fill out at the A.B. Won Pat International Airport, which is a similar tracking system to Hawaii’s.
In other GVB news, more than 30 businesses applied for a World Travel and Tourism Council safe business certification, and 25 have been approved thus far.
Editor’s note: Glimpses Media publishes the Marianas Business Journal.
- United Airlines will continue its Guam to Honolulu daily service through May. As earlier reported, the airline confirmed it will have four flights to Saipan weekly.
United will also introduce a Guam to Tokyo/Narita daily service. The Guam-Manila service will continue three times weekly.
Additional flights will be:
Guam to Koror, Palau on April 8, May 9 and 30 with the return flights scheduled for April 9, May 10 and 31. The Guam-Palau flight schedule continues to adjust as Palau reopens to international travelers.
Guam to Yap on April 11 and May 23 with the return flights scheduled for the same day.
The Island Hopper on April 12, May 10 and May 24 with return flights on April 13, May 11 and May 25, all of which are subject to the quarantine restrictions of the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia.
The Chuuk-Pohnpei flight is scheduled for April 24 and May 15 with return flights scheduled for April 25 and May 16.
- Total demand for air travel in February 2021 (measured in revenue passenger kilometers or RPKs) was down 74.7% compared to February 2019. That was worse than the 72.2% decline recorded in January 2021 versus two years ago, according to an April 8 release from the International Air Transport Association.
February traffic for Asia Pacific airlines was down 95.2% compared to February 2019, little changed from the 94.8% decline registered for January 2021 compared to January 2019. The region continued to suffer from the steepest traffic declines for an eighth consecutive month. Capacity was down 87.5% and the load factor sank 50.0 percentage points to 31.1%, the lowest among regions.
Air cargo demand has not just recovered, but is growing, IATA said is a separate April 8 release.
Asia-Pacific airlines saw demand for international air cargo rise 10.5% in February 2021 compared to the same month in 2019. As the main global manufacturing hub, the region has benefited from the pickup in economic activity. Demand in the majority of the region’s key international trade lanes has returned to pre-COVID-19 levels. International capacity remained constrained in the region, down 23.6% versus February 2019. The region’s airlines reported the highest international load factor at 77.4%.
- The A.B. Won Pat International Airport, Guam became the first U.S airport in the Micronesian and Polynesian region to receive international recognition in achieving the Airports Council International Airport Health Accreditation — an independent, third party review of the airport’s protocols and processes in providing a safe airport experience for all travelers.
Panel discusses tourism reopening
During the University of Guam’s 2021 virtual Conference on Island Sustainability, the segment, “Islands Are Rising for Economic Recovery,” debuted on April 9, with guest panelists from various islands around the globe.
The session was moderated by Jackie A. Marati, senior vice president and chief communications and corporate social responsibility for the Bank of Guam, who guided the conversation towards the ultimate goal of reopening Guam for tourists. “It is important that the community is involved in this… Without our community, we will not rise,” she said.
President Surangel S. Whipps, Jr., discussed the Palau-Taiwan travel bubble and how it affected Palau’s economy.
“Like Guam, we are a very tourist-dependent economy,” he said. “In the past year since we have reopened, there were zero tourists for the whole year and that has a negative impact on the businesses and the people. Anything we can do to get this back on track is critical… In January, when we received the first doses, that was the ray of hope that we were going to get through this.”
Whipps noted that the risk of contracting a Coronavirus case within this bubble is a one in four million chance.
Panelist Samuel V. Shinohara, managing director of operations for Asia and the Pacific for United Airlines, said, “In the weeks ahead, Guam will be in a great position to lead by example,” and that the global travel trade will be watching Guam as it officially re-opens May 1.
Quoting one of his fellow board members at the Guam Visitors Bureau, Shinohara said, “This work that we’re doing is really important, and we only have one opportunity to get it right.”
He also said he believes now is a safe time to welcome visitors, “It’s time to get our businesses open and our families back to work… It’s going to take a lot of us to work together to be successful. “At United, we say we’re returning to new. We’re at a pivotal moment where we can make changes to how we care,” he said.
Whipps said, “The term we use in Palau is we are opening with care… I think that’s what United is trying to do, that’s what we’re all trying to do.”
Other guest speakers for this session included Alfredo Coro, vice mayor of the municipality of Del Carmen on the Sirargao Islands in the Philippines; Henk Rogers, founder and board chair of Blue Planet Foundation, headquartered in Hawaii; and Benito Wheatley, special envoy and advisor on international affairs for the Office of the Premier of the British Virgin Islands.
Unemployment numbers show highs of jobless and those not seeking employment
According to a sample survey of households conducted by the Guam Department of Labor, Guam reached its highest rate of unemployment in December 2020 at 19.4%, or 13,850 persons completely unemployed during that period. This is an increase from September’s 17.9% and December 2019’s rate of 6.1%.
According to DOL, private sector employment stood at 44, 240 in December 2020, down from 51,960 in December 2019. Government of Guam employment increased in the same period with 11,860 employees in December 2020, up from 11,710 in December 2019, or an increase of about 1.3%. The federal government workforce shrank by 0.5% in the 12 months.
Guam’s population covered by the survey, 16 years of age and over in December 2020 was 123,750, which shows an increase of 150, compared to September 2020.
The unemployment rate in December 2020 reflected an increase in the number of persons unemployed since December 2019 and an increase in the number of persons counted in the Not in the Labor Force category. The number of persons Not in the Labor Force increased from 47,270 in December 2019 to 52,390 in December 2020.
The survey and relevant charts and economic information can be found at www.bls.guam.gov.
- The Federal Aviation Administration awarded Northern Mariana Islands airports four grants for costs related to operations, personnel, cleaning, sanitization, janitorial services, debt service payments, and combating the spread of pathogens, according to an April 8 release from the office of Gregorio “Kilili” Camacho Sablan, the delegate of the Northern Mariana Islands to Saipan. The awards are $3,66 million for the Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport, $9,000 for the Pagan airstrip, $1.01 million for the Tinian Airport and $1 million for the Benjamin Taisacan Manglona Airport on Rota.
Three other grants were awarded to provide economic relief from rent and minimum annual guarantees to on-airport car rental, on-airport parking, and in-terminal concessions located at Marianas airports. They are $8,836 for the Tinian Airport, $2,436 for the Benjamin Taisacan Manglona Airport on Rota and $121,975 for Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport.
- Guam Industrial Services Inc., which does business as the Guam Shipyard has been awarded $2.57 million by the Port Authority of Guam to “demolish, remove and properly dispose of Gantry No. 2 and No. 3, one mobile harbor crane, two rubber tire gantry cranes and one barge at Wharf F-6.”
- The Guam Cancer Trust Fund, on March 24 approved an award of $110,000 to Guam Memorial Hospital Authority for use in fiscal 2021. The University of Guam administers and manages the fund, overseeing its distribution to organizations that provide patient-directed services in regard to cancer prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and other services that may be required to access treatment, such as off-island transportation and temporary housing. GMH will use the funds to purchase cancer-related medications, fund a local oncologist, provide patient cancer care, and provide prevention training and education for families.
Small business updates
Promotion Specialties announced new ownership. L.T. Digi-Tell Enterprises Inc. has purchased Promotion Specialties, which celebrated its 25th anniversary last year. Larry D. Halladay, owner and president acts as general manager. The awards and promotional specialty company is promoting Buy Local, helping agencies spread awareness during the pandemic and is offering customization of gifts and awards for the local market, according to an April 5 release. Promotion Specialties is located in Sunny Plaza in Tamuning and its website is www.promoguam.com.
Bella Wings Aviation is partnering with PromoDrone of San Diego, Calif. to offer advertising on its drones to businesses and governments throughout the North Pacific in Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia and the Marshall Islands. The drones can also carry event and personal messages. For more information, see www.bellawingsaviation.com and www.promo-drone.co
Guam OPA on a roll:
The Guam Office of Public Accountability has released a number of audits. These include:
The Tourist Attraction Fund, which received an unmodified or clean opinion for fiscal 2020, with no material deficiencies identified. Although the TAF decreased expenditures, collections of Hotel Tax Occupancy Revenue decreased by $18.3 million, or 41% from $44.7 million in fiscal 2019 to $26.4 million in fiscal 2020.
GHF records two governmental funds, which both ended FY 2020 with a positive fund balance – the Guam Highway Special Revenue Fund with $1.2M and the Capital Projects Fund with $176 thousand (K) – for a combined total of $1.4M.
The Guam Highway Fund, which saw a 20% decline in revenues or $5.1 million, from $25.2 million in fiscal 2019 to $20.1 million in fiscal 2020. Collections from Liquid Fuel Taxes decreased by $2.7 million (or 19%), while collections from automotive surcharges, vehicle registration fees, and driver’s license fees decreased by $2.4 million (or 22%). Revenues decreased primarily due to motor traffic decreasing from reduced economic activity as a result of the pandemic.
According to the OPA, 35% of expenditures were unrelated to highways or transportation.
April 6 – Kim In Kook, head of the Consular Office of the Republic of Korea and Consul Kyungbo Jeong visited Rear Adm. John V. Menoni, commander, Joint Region Marianas to build rapport and to thank him for his service. Kim visit to Brig. Gen. Jeremy T. Sloane, commander of the 36th Wing at Andersen Air Force Base on April 5.
April 6 to 9 – UOG virtual Conference on Island Sustainability
April 7 – The Guam Visitors Bureau’s webinar on “Korean Outbound Travelers Perspectives”
April 7 – Saipan Chamber of Commerce in-person general membership lunch
April 8 – Guam Women’s Chamber of Commerce virtual half day summit
April 8 – Guam Chamber of Commerce Armed Forces Committee/Guam Hotel and Restaurant Association virtual Safe Haven Forum with Naval Base Guam on present and future business opportunities.
Send your event to the Journal’s Community Calendar, by emailing [email protected]. We’ll also be happy to tell you if there are multiple events already scheduled!
From June 15, indoor gatherings for more than 100 can take place in California, with attendees wearing masks. Convention centers and other venues hosting events larger than 5,000 will need attendees to test for COVID, or show vaccination proof.
The Cincinnati Reds Major League Baseball team is offering a 50% discount on certain seats through May at its ballpark to fans who show vaccination cards with at least one shot completed. mbj