BY MAUREEN N. MARATITA
Specific measures to attract tourists were some of the ideas shared by the Korean Air representative to increase Guam’s competitiveness as a tourism product at the For Guam 2022 Tourism Forum. The event was hosted by the Guam Hotel & Restaurant Association and the Guam Travel & Tourism Association at the RHIGA Royal Laguna Guam Resort on Oct. 18.
Joo-ho Byeon, sales management group leader for KAL, said the airline will increase flights to Guam for the high season from Dec. 21 to Jan. 26 with one more daily flight.
However, he said with the weak yen, Japan was a noticeable attractive destination, as were cheaper destinations in Asia.
“Those countries get like 5,000 bookings per day,” he said.
For the island, he said, “There’s not enough to differentiate Guam from other Southeast Asia destinations.”
He suggested more activities are needed – to include diving attractions. He also said there were notable U.S. brands that Guam lacked to attract shoppers.
The island would benefit from a theme park, and “a child and family friendly airport,” he said.
“It took me about an hour to pass immigration. Some parents were holding their children in their arms – actually that was me.”
Australia, New Zealand and Canada were also marketing their destinations by the use of celebrities.
The University of Guam presented a review of the impact of LEAP – the Local Employers Assistance Program, which gave support to 900 Guam businesses that suffered a greater than 50% decrease in revenue since 2020. UOG, Merrill & Associates, and Roseann M. Jones, professor of economics at UOG, produced a survey of 131 beneficiaries of the program. John J. Rivera, associate professor of public administration at UOG said, “LEAP helped about 36% that relied on the visitor market. … Recipients are not optimistic about their projected annual revenue,” he said.
As to the outlook for the next 12 months, in June 37% of respondents said revenues will remain lower than 50% of pre-pandemic revenues, 74% suspended or ceases operations and 94% scaled back business. “A lack of visitors remains the greatest challenge. Recipients expect operational challenges – challenges in cash flow and a high cost of goods,” Rivera said.
However, 93% were still operational because of the LEAP program, he said. Recipients were almost predominantly small businesses with less than 20 employees.
Melanie Mendiola, administrator of the Guam Economic Development Authority, said businesses that still need help need a specific type of help. However, Mendiola said she could not confirm further LEAP funding.
David B. Tydingco, managing director and CEO of the Valley of the Latte Adventure Park and a founding member of the Guam Travel & Tourism Association said a working group would “deal specifically with those issues.”
Mary P. Rhodes, president of the Guam Hotel & Restaurant Association – one of the co-hosting organizations for the Oct. 18 forum at the RHIGA Royal Laguna Guam Resort gave a somber assessment of the market. “We feel that its going to take several years for a full recovery,” she said. Rhodes recognized the importance of air lift to the island. “We are all reliant on airline capacity. We need to push that window so we can have real progress,” she said.
Tydingco said Guam faced challenges from tourist destinations in the region. “Asia has not opened as quickly as the rest of of the world.” The yen to dollar exchange rate is affecting Guam’s attractiveness, he said. “Even if we did not increase our prices, we are 25% more expensive than we were in 2019.”
Readers can find statistics and slides from the forum at https://ghra.org/presentations.