Travel And Tour World talks with Gerald S.A. Perez, Vice President, Guam Visitor’s Bureau (GVB), to know about his visions and experiences about reviving Guam’s tourism scene after the pandemic and GVB’s role in “making Guam a better place to live, work and visit.”
Travel And Tour World: As the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc in global tourism how has it affected Guam’s tourism scene?
Gerald S.A. Perez: The COVID-19 pandemic critically impacted Guam’s tourism scene. Having reached a record number of visitors in 2019 with over 1.6 million visitors, Guam was bustling with tourism activity. Tourism related businesses did very well and the scene around Guam’s tourism district was vibrant and promising. However, as the pandemic made its course, businesses had to shut down temporarily and in some cases, permanently. Employees who were part of Guam’s most successful year of visitor arrivals were now furloughed or laid off. Tourism arrivals recorded a 99% decline compared to the previous year as Guam lost its direct flight services from its source markets.
Travel And Tour World: Before the pandemic the island achieved 1.6 million annual visitors as per the latest information available to us. Please share in details with our readers about the ongoing efforts and challenges to recovering Guam’s pre-pandemic footfall.
Gerald S.A. Perez: GVB has taken an aggressive approach to reopening Guam’s tourism industry. During the pandemic, GVB helped lead the efforts to scaling vaccination through our Vax N’ Win campaign. The incentive campaign was instrumental in growing the vaccination rate among the local population and as a result, Guam was one of the first in the nation to achieve herd immunity. Additionally, Guam launched the Air V&V (Vaccination & Vacation) campaign to attract visitors from countries where it was difficult to receive the vaccine and in 2021, offered free COVID-19 testing to returning visitors.
Arrivals to Guam in FY 2022 saw a 256% increase compared to the previous fiscal year, growing from 60,683 to 215,928 visitors. However, this figure represents just 13% of pre-pandemic numbers.
GVB has increased in marketing and promotional efforts targeting both key source markets and new markets. GVB has participated in sales calls and road shows in Japan and South Korea to reconnect with trade partners, share the latest Guam travel information and establish new relationships with trade partners. GVB has also begin participating in international travel trade and consumer shows around Asia and the U.S.
Travel And Tour World: What initiatives are taken by the GVB to contribute to the national economic growth after the pandemic?
Gerald S.A. Perez: Tourism is Guam’s number one industry, generating $1.9 billion total tourism economy sales before the pandemic. Over 23,100 jobs were supported by tourism in 2019, which represented more than 34% of all jobs on Guam. That number has since dwindled down to 12,425 jobs in the latest Tourism Satellite Account report in 2021. Tourism also contributes $1.4 billion towards Guam’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), 22% of the Guam economy.
GVB has taken many initiatives to contribute to Guam economic growth. For one, GVB launched a Digital Academy to empower Guam’s workforce transformation into digital-ready organizations. Additionally, GVB brought in travel experts to provide training and share techniques and strategies to stay current with the evolving landscape of tourism and how customers connect, share, and purchase during the COVID-19 era.
Secondly, as soon as Guam’s number one source market, South Korea, allowed for international travel, GVB launched a program that offered free COVID-19 testing to all visitors. The program was successful and the demand for travel to Guam led to airlines reestablishing services or increasing frequency to Guam. Simultaneously, the tourism related businesses started seeing activity once again, making it possible for companies to reinstate employees or hire new ones.
Travel And Tour World: What are the top attractions in Guam that you would like to highlight for promoting tourism in the region?
Gerald S.A. Perez: Guam proudly boasts a variety of unique attractions and experiences that cater to all visitors. Whether you are looking to submerge yourself in Guam’s 4,000-year-old culture, go diving in pristine waters, tee off in one of Guam’s famous golf courses, enjoy luxury tax-free shopping or just relax under the warm tropical sun, you won’t be disappointed.
Some famous attractions include the Two Lovers Point which features breathtaking views of both the eastern and western sides of the island from 368 above the reef below. Here you have a complete view of Tumon Bay that makes for great sunset shots.
The Valley of the Latte offers visitors the experience of Guam’s beauty that extends beyond its pristine beaches and crystal-clear waters. It is an award-winning attraction that combines nature, local wildlife, ancient Chamorro history, and traditional practices into a unique island experience suitable for all ages.
For the golf enthusiasts, the island is home to seven world-class golf courses designed by some of the legends of the sport. If you seek a more thrilling experience, you can avail to a guided hiking tour through the lush jungles of Guam and end up at one of the islands waterfalls or hidden beaches.
If shopping is your cup of tea, Guam carries some of the world’s most luxurious and famous designers with boutiques located in Tumon. Shopping malls and other stores provide a wide selection of shopping opportunities tax-free!
Travel And Tour World: The month of October had been really significant in Guam’s MICE industry as you have just attended some of the prestigious travel trade shows including the ITB Asia. Please share your experience in details about introducing Guam to the industry leaders.
Gerald S.A. Perez: The MICE market is an important market for Guam. Guam hosts many group travels from South Korea, Japan, the Philippines and the U.S. With competitive incentive offerings, Guam has been able to attract companies and organizations to choose Guam as their preferred MICE destination.
GVB recently participated in ITB Asia and MICE Show Asia. The week before these trade events, a GVB delegation also exhibited at IMEX America, the U.S.’ largest MICE expo. GVB plans to continue the promotion of MICE travel and will look into enhancing its MICE incentives.
One thing we learned from our participation in these MICE events is that companies are looking for new and exciting destinations. Guam being a U.S. territory in Asia is an intriguing appeal that we are confident will attract more MICE business.
Travel And Tour World: How many events have you secured successfully in the years post-pandemic? What are your plans to revive Guam’s MICE scene?
Gerald S.A. Perez: GVB began attending events within the past year, from road shows to sales calls in Japan and South Korea, to trade and consumer shows in Japan, South Korea, the U.S., Taiwan and Singapore. GVB plans to continue an aggressive approach to promote Guam’s tourism reopening and will be attending trade and consumer events in the months to come.
GVB will be participating in the Travel & Adventure Show in Los Angeles in February, the Malaysia Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) fair in March, IPW in the U.S. in May. Additionally, GVB will continue its sales missions and road shows in Japan and South Korea.
GVB has recently updated its MICE manual and will be evaluating its current incentives. We want to remain competitive and offer attractive incentives that will make Guam the obvious choice for group travel.
Travel And Tour World: Please share with our readers about your ideas to reinstate sustainable tourism in Guam.
Gerald S.A. Perez: Sustainable tourism is already embedded in many of Guam’s business practices. From curbside recycling, to ecofriendly tours like Valley of the Latte Adventure Park, and the use of solar panels, energy saving practices and partnerships with University of Guam’s Guam Green Growth (G3) initiatives, Guam is pushing forward to encourage and maintain sustainable ways to live.
Travel And Tour World: Where do you wish to see Guam’s tourism industry in the next five years?
Gerald S.A. Perez: Guam is projected to reach pre-pandemic levels in its tourism recovery in the next two to three years. It is our hope that the industry and economy will continue to diversify and grow so that the island can thrive for its people and guests. We continue to work closely with our airlines, travel agents, hotels, restaurants, local government and other partners to achieve this goal.