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    Tuesday, August 21, 2018-3:44:10A.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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Despite North Korea threat, Guam tourism made the ‘best’ calendar

HAGÅTÑA — The height of North Korea’s threat in August last year triggered jitters and an odd kind of excitement that drew the world’s attention to this tiny island.

Despite reports of booking cancellations resulting from “fire and fury” tension, Guam welcomed 1,543,990 visitors last year, well surpassing the 1991 peak and hitting its best calendar in the island’s tourism history, according to the Guam Visitors Bureau.

Over 1.5 million tourists visited Guam last year.  Photo by Mar-Vic CaguranganOver 1.5 million tourists visited Guam last year. Photo by Mar-Vic Cagurangan

“The breakout visitor market of calendar year 2017 was Korea, with an all-time high of 684,443 visitors, up +26 percent versus last year,” GVB said, noting that the surge in the Korea market helped offset the declines in other markets to include Japan, Taiwan, and China.

“Completing the year with 1.54 million visitors is a great milestone for our visitor industry,” said Nathan Denight, GVB president and CEO. “The growth and diversification of all of Guam’s visitor markets collectively helped the island achieve that number, as well as the hard work and dedication of our tourism industry.”

GVB said Guam recorded 139,608 visitors for December 2017, marking it the second best December in tourism history right behind December 2016. While Japan arrivals declined by 25.9 percent, arrivals from Korea jumped 26.2 percent. In addition, other markets that showed growth in visitor arrivals to Guam include the U.S. and Hawaii by 11.3 percent, Australia by 8.2 percent, Palau by 26.1 percent and Russia by 52.5 percent.

For many decades, Japan had been Guam’s No. 1 market. Despite its drop, however, GVB said the industry stakeholders “remain committed to the Japan market even as Guam faces several challenges including the weak Yen, reductions in airline seats, stiff competition from other destinations and the negative effects of the North Korea news.”

Tourism officials said GVB is actively engaged with both travel agent and airline partners to support their efforts to promote travel to Guam.

GVB works with the Guam International Airport Authority to attract more airline service from Japan, such as the second daily flight from Narita that Japan Airlines announced it would add in March. Upcoming special events such as the United Airlines Guam Marathon and AKB48 Guam fan tour will take place in April and help boost Japan arrivals, the bureau said.

GVB also recently launched its new Visit Guam 2018 campaign with its theme of “#Instaguam” in all of its visitor markets. The theme pairs two ideas: showcasing Guam as an instant destination from major Asian cities and the use of Social Networking Sites to promote unique experiences of Guam by island residents and visitors.

“The local community is our biggest stakeholder in all of this and we are committed to having them benefit from tourism and showing them how tourism works for them,” Denight said.

“There’s much work ahead to stabilize our number one economic contributor, but I commend the men and women of tourism for working hard to welcome our visitors and showcase our Chamorro culture to the world,” Gov. Eddie Calvo said.

In September last year, GVB said it missed out on about $9.5 million in potential revenues last month due to thousands of tour cancellations at the height of North Korea’s threats to launch ballistic missiles aimed at the island.

While visitors continued to arrive in droves throughout the weeks marred by geopolitical tension, GVB’s post-crisis report showed 7,426 cancellations from travelers associated with package tours, school groups and Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions groups for August. A majority of the cancellations came from Japan.

In October, China Air cancelled its Guam-bound charter flight from Taiwan reportedly due to persistent threats from North Korea that discouraged Taiwanese travelers from visiting Guam.

Travel agents have also noticed bookings to Guam from Taiwan for November and December have slowed down, the bureau said.

GVB’s Research Department determined that arrivals have declined by nearly 1 percent in August 2017 when compared to the same month the previous year.

“August serves a perfect example of the volatility of our tourism industry. While we still see strong growth in Korea, the alarming number of cancellations from Japan and other markets in the region has forced a slight decline to what was anticipated to be Guam’s strongest month in visitor arrivals,” said Acting Director of Research Nico Fujikawa.