BY MAUREEN N. MARATITA
Journal Staff

A group of businesses largely from the tourism industry want to face Guam’s tourism issues head on.

Speaking at a news conference on May 24 at Tumon Sands Plaza, chairwoman Jovyna Lujan of the Guam Travel & Tourism Association – who is also merchandize manager of DKSH Guam Inc. – said, “As we commemorate 55 years of tourism and travel between Guam and Japan – as we begin to see familiar signs of visitors in our businesses and on San Vitores Road, we also recognize the critical work which lies ahead.”

The association has its roots in Protehi I Lina’lata – an effort spearheaded by David B. Tydingco, managing director of Valley of the Latte Adventure Park, and Simon A. Sanchez II, general manager of Guam Dry Cleaners, which resulted in the Local Employers Assistance Program, which resulted in nearly $60 million in funding for tourism venues and cultural attractions towards the end of 2021.

“Protehi I Lina’lata has therefore now evolved into the newly-registered Guam Travel & Tourism Association – a private non-profit organization which affords organizational and structural support to continue the work needed,” Lujan said.

Guam tourism businesses will need relevant and continuous travel market updates to help plan the coming year, she said. “We need to challenge ourselves and create a more seamless and secure travel experience for our visitors. We need to look out and consider how travel will be impacted over the next three to five years and how do we ensure that our industry remains viable and competitive?”

The association will host its first event on June 7 at the Hyatt Regency Guam from 9 a.m. to noon. William Nault, president and CEO of Naultech Guam Corp. and GTTA vice chairman, said, “We are bringing our core market experts from Japan and Korea, to hear from them directly.” The aim is for attendees to ask questions they want to ask, rather than hear from a third party he said.

The association is developing a membership program and structure.

Tydingco said, “We’re all volunteers here. We’ll figure out how we can help first and then grow our membership from that.”

Tydingco said every organization has a specific mission and the association is not looking to duplicate those.  “We did feel there was a void that needs to be filled. …. Because of the pandemic there were many companies that had no voices. They were companies that English is not their first language – members of our Japanese, Taiwanese, Chinese and Korean communities.” Bringing the group together had provided help for them, he said.

Member company representatives at the meeting also detailed how slowly growth has been returning, if at all – due to a lack of pent-up demand after the pandemic. 

Aside from Lujan and Nault, Akihiro Tani , general manager of Pacific Underwater Observatories Inc., which does business as Fish Eye Marine Park, will serve as GTTA Treasurer and Bradley D. Kloppenburg, president of Turtle Tours and Kloppenburg Enterprises Inc. as secretary.

Three standing committees will be chaired as follows; Finance: Monte D.M Mesa, general manager of Guam Premier Outlets and Tumon Sands Plaza; Industry Policy: Tydingco; and Industry Research, Education and Communication: Co-chairs Nault and Jay R. Merrill, CEO, Market Research and Development Inc.

Lujan referenced the economic value of Guam’s tourism industry of $2.4 billion annually and its 20,000 private sector jobs prior to the pandemic, according to a University of Guam study. The study also found that by the end of 2020, 7% of all tourism businesses were permanently closed. mbj