BY MAUREEN N. MARATITA
Both Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands are in the process of marketing to Japanese visitors as restrictions ease and airlines increase flights.
Meanwhile, the largest hotel group in Guam is planning its own support of the Japan market and the island’s renewed tourism efforts.
Mitsuo “Mike” Sato, president of P.H.R. Ken Micronesia Inc., said that his group will once again bring charter flights to the island.
“Our parent company — Ken Corp. in Japan — was providing charters daily between Narita and Guam from October 2018 to March 2020,” he said. Ken Corp. was forced to stop the charters with the onset of COVID.
“Ken Corp. will resume charters soon,” Sato said.
When that will be exactly is still a moving target and depends on the willingness of Japanese to travel. (See “Rising prices may keep Japanese at home in the short term or vacationing in Japan,” on Page 3.)
Sato came to Guam in March 2017 — in time to hear Delta Airlines announce it would cease all flight service from Narita to Guam by Jan. 8, 2018, citing low demand. The airline had been providing daily service to Guam.
Delta also ceased its services to Saipan and Palau on May 6, 2018. Delta was operating daily service from Narita to Saipan and twice-weekly service to Palau, according to Journal files.
By August 2018, the PHR Ken group was far enough along to share with the Journal its charter plans to bring visitors to Guam. A new company — Guam Air Tokyo Japan Corp. partnered with Jeju Airlines to offer 189 seats daily to Guam, initially planning to run the charters for a year.
Sato said that Ken Corp’s upcoming intentions also include its own marketing to potential Japan visitors.
He also said Guam’s potential has not lessened.
As to progress with other airlines, Shoji Komoda, deputy general manager of the Outbound Promotion Division of the Japan Association of Travel Agents or JATA, told the Journal for a June 6 story, “Guam is a very important destination for the Japanese outbound travel industry and we have been very pleased to hear that JAL is resuming direct flights from this summer,” he said. “We also believe that there is potential for more Japanese travelers, although it is unfortunate that there are still no direct flights between Japan and Saipan,” he said at the time.
“We are hoping that we might be able to convince Skymark Airlines to consider operating on those routes,” Komoda said.
With hubs at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport and Kobe, which also serves the greater Osaka region, Skymark presently only serves domestic destinations, but it did begin scheduled flights to Saipan in 2019. The Marianas Visitors Authority began communicating with Skymark earlier this year, according to media reports.
Informed Japan sources told the Journal the week of June 27 that Skymark is not likely to consider Guam. The sources put the odds of Skymark resuming flights to Saipan at “50-50.”
In the meantime, United Airlines is ramping up flights to both Guam and Saipan.
The airline announced June 22 that it will relaunch Nagoya-Guam and Fukuoka-Guam services from Aug. 1, with two weekly flights to both destinations. From Aug. 1, United will also increase flights between Guam and Tokyo/Narita to 21 flights per week.
United will also fly three times weekly between Saipan and Narita from Sept. 1.
In support of the route, MVA will hold a Marianas Seminar & Webinar on July 8 in Tokyo and “make sales calls to key travel agencies, airlines, and other tourism partners,” it said.
A Guam Visitors Bureau group is taking to the road from Jul. 3 to 7 to Osaka, Nagoya and Tokyo, inviting trade partners to meet with the group and holding a press conference in Osaka with United to promote the three weekly Osaka flights beginning July 1, as well as the additional flights to Guam.
Together with the Japan-Guam Travel Association and United, GVB welcomed a trade group of about 50 travel agents, media, and other travel trade representatives from June 13 to 16, scheduling a trade show during the visit.
GVB is currently covering the cost of PCR tests in Guam for returning visitors at four Tumon sites.
P.H.R. Ken has had more news to share recently — related to its hotels.
Investment continues apace at both the Hyatt Regency Guam and the RHIGA Royal Laguna Guam Resort (formerly the Sheraton Laguna Guam Resort). See the June 8 “More room by far” on www.mbjguam.com for Hyatt news, and “In with the new,” in the April 4 issue of the Journal for RHIGA Royal news.
Sato said his group intends to further invest at the Hilton Guam Resort & Spa’s extensive property.
The plans will impress people, he said. “We hope it will exceed their expectations.”
Hiroki Sugie, general manager of the Hilton said the Hilton is planning a complete refurbishment beginning with the suites and rooms in the Premier Tower, which he said is “good timing.”
(See the Hilton Guam Resort & Spa’s 50th Anniversary Supplement in the upcoming July-August issue of Guam Business Magazine for additional news related to the Japan market and the Hilton property in interviews with both Sato and Sugie.) mbj