Fragile Guam tourism market sees repeat downturn

            The requirement for incoming travelers to quarantine for 10 days due to the omicron variant is affecting Guam’s Korean visitor market.

            Air Seoul was planning to restart flights to Guam from Dec. 23, butt has now postponed the relaunch until Jan. 29. The airline will change bookings of customers who already purchased tickets, according to the Chosun Ilbo in Korea.

            Jeju Air canceled its seven flights from Dec. 4 to Dec. 16, when the quarantine for arrivals from overseas is scheduled to end.

            Jin Air has reduced its flights from four a week to twice weekly.

            The Japanese government has also restricted incoming travelers, after a decision to allow businesspeople and students to enter the country.

            The Guam Visitors Bureau announced Dec. 7 it is suspending its free trolley service from Dec. 13 until further notice, due to “low rider turnout and changes in travel restrictions in Guam’s source markets.”


Nursing leadership meets to discuss recruitment and retention challenges

            Guam Regional Medical City hosted a community meeting Dec. 7 at the Dusit Thani Guam Resort to discuss solutions to challenges with nurse recruitment, retention and opportunities for further education, according to a Dec. 7 release.  Dr. Gilbert “Punky” Mudge, senior advisor in the health practice of the Albright Stonebridge Group, who is also chairman of Blue Continent Healthcare Group, which recently purchased GRMC, facilitated the meeting.

            Guam Memorial Hospital, Naval Hospital Guam, the Guam Nursing Association, the University of Guam and Guam Community College were represented among the attendees. 


Major Guam road to see work begin

            At least one project of several on the drawing board at the Guam Department of Public Works will see work begin.

            Hawaiian Rock Products will begin work on Ysengsong Road in Dededo for a Federal Highway Administration $6.5 million upgrade of Rte. 28 from Rte. 1 to Bumuchachu Street, according to a Dec. 7 joint release from the Office of the Governor and DPW. “Adequate access to residences and businesses will be maintained at all times,” the release said. No start date was given in the release.


No resolution yet between Star Marianas and CPA on flights and user costs

            Star Marianas Air has written to the U.S. Department of Transportation concerning its suspension of flights.

            In the Dec. 6 six-page letter, the airline took issue with the Commonwealth Ports Authority’s decision on new rates outside of what Star Marianas said was its existing Airport Use Agreement. Shaun R. Christian, president of Star Marianas wrote, “SMA notes that the CPA’s decision was not mandated by the [Federal Aviation Administration] or the [Department of Transport] and that the CPA simply chose to unilaterally initiate the new fees.”

            According to the letter, new fees would take into account landing weights, not only landings, a total of $54,376 for October, with a total of all fees rising to $128,923 for that month and $111,366 for November, totaling $426,056 for the two months. The airline said that is “a far cry from the $126,807 to be paid for the entire nine-month period from January to September 2022.” This would be without federal subsidies Star Marianas said.

            The airline said, “This unilaterally implemented fee structure placed SMA in its current business dilemma and created an uncertain business climate which makes responsible financial management of SMA’s operations tenuous and speculative.” At a minimum, the airline said, to operate profitably it would have to pass “these massive increases” to its customers, which would make inter-islands travel grossly cost prohibitive.

            Star Marianas has not ceased to operate, it said, and continues to accept air taxi flights on an on-demand and case-by-case basis. However, it has suspended taking reservations for scheduled flights “until such time as the CPA decides to consider its position on the fees for using its airports.”

            The letter was copied to Gov. Ralph DLG. Torres and the mayors of Tinian and Rota. Star Marianas had earlier announced plans to resume flights on the Guam-Rota route.


NMI introduces “temporary” restrictions

            The Northern Mariana Islands announced restrictions from Dec. 6 following escalation of positive COVID numbers. They are that all non-essential government employees will stay home for the following 14 days and telework; certain essential government offices will remain open on a limited basis, including the Division of Revenue and Taxation and the NMI Treasury.

            Face masks are required in all public indoor spaces, but not while seated in a food establishment or actively eating or drinking. Signage must be posted on the mask requirement.

            Curfew will be from 12 midnight to 4 a.m., but exceptions remain.

            Social gathering are limited to 50% of occupancy unless vaccination verification of a negative test verification is conducted by the event organizer or establishment owner on those 12 years or older, in which case 100% occupancy is allowable. Proof of a negative COVID test within 72 hours is the option for the unvaccinated; tests at a community-based testing site are free. Gathering organizers and establishments must have the ability to temperature screen participating patrons, and document names, phone numbers and evidence of vaccination or testing.


Bank will take cash deposits, upgrade ATMs

            Bank of Guam announced it will accept cash at its ATMs, in a move likely to be popular with quick service restaurants, retail outlets and merchants whose customers pay in cash for relatively small purchases or services.

            BOG will upgrade its ATMs in branches in Micronesia – adding denomination note choice for cash withdrawals, enhanced anti-skimming security and an update to its interactive display.

Its customers will also be able to access Wifi in its branches in Guam, with customers in other island branches able to do so next year as well as unveiling an ATM van that will appear at events, the bank said in Dec. 7 release.