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    Monday, October 22, 2018-4:19:28A.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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Guam tourism bounces back

HAGÅTÑA —  In August last year, the world’s attention was riveted to Guam, which was then trending on Google search.

But it was not exactly the kind of attention stakeholders of the island’s tourism industry had hoped for. Top key words on Google search were “distance between Guam and North Korea.” At the time, Guam was in North Korea’s crosshairs.

Click to enlarge
Guam Visitors Bureau says the island welcomed 145,817 visitors in August.  Photo by Mar-Vic Cagurangan

“Everybody is talking about you. Your tourism will increase tenfold,” President Trump told Gov. Eddie Calvo over the speakerphone. Many didn’t know what to make of such a cavalier statement, but stakeholders of the local tourism industry hoped he was right.

Subsequent reports of group tour cancellations and declining arrival numbers in the following months proved that courting the possibility of being stranded in an island threatened with a ballistic missile attack was not everyone’s idea of tourist adventure. Arrivals from Japan — Guam’s main market which has been stagnant in the last five years — were further affected, prompting several airlines to shut down direct flights to Guam.

 “The island has had a 3.1 percent decline in total visitor arrivals in FY18, primarily due to the negative effects of the North Korea news and a loss of air seats from Japan include the exiting of Delta from Guam, Saipan and Palau,” the Guam Visitors Bureau reported. “The Japan market was the most negatively impacted with a 30 percent loss of seat capacity in June, resulting in a  23.9 percent decrease in arrivals.”

With peace on the horizon, following the historic June summit between Trump and North Korea’s leader Kim Jon Un that resulted in Pyongyang’s pledge “to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” Guam begins to see a slow rebound. While Japan market remains precarious, demand for travel between Japan and Guam has seen a significant improvement.

In its latest arrival report, the Guam Visitors Bureau said the island welcomed 145,817 visitors last August, “becoming the best August — and the best month overall — in visitor numbers.”

GVB said August 2018 numbers eclipsed the previous record made in August 2016 with 144,758 visitors.

“Achieving the best August in visitor arrivals is a testament to the efforts being made to continue to grow and diversify our top economic driver and keep our unemployment rate low,”  Gov. Eddie Baza Calvo said.

Guam’s seat capacity has since increased. United Airlines is reintroducing its Boeing 777-200 aircraft on two of three daily flights from Tokyo to Guam starting Oct. 28. The airline will also restore four weekly flights between Guam and Nagoya from Dec. 2, 2018 through the end of March 2019.

The additional four flights add more than 1,000 seats per week and over 16,000 seats between Guam and Japan to meet the increasing demand during the upcoming winter season as well as add convenient evening departure times in addition to the current morning departures.

Japan Airlines has decided to extend its second daily flights from Narita to Guam through March 2019. Jeju Air’s daily flights between Osaka and Guam launched on July 21 on a Boeing 737-800.

Additionally, Guam has 471 total charter flights from Japan for Calendar Year 2018, which is more than twice the amount from last year.

“August marked the one-year anniversary when Guam was affected by the news from North Korea,” Lt. Gov. Ray Tenorio said. “It’s been a long journey since then, but seeing how our visitor arrivals have improved is welcomed news that shows how Guam is recovering from circumstances outside of our control.”

In the final months of the calendar year, Guam’s available seating capacity for the winter schedule will continue to increase, according to GVB president and CEO Nathan Denight.

 “We will begin to see the gap in Japan arrivals close as a result of these efforts. More work to be done ahead, but we’re proud of what has been achieved so far,” Denight said.

According to GVB’s Research Department, arrivals are performing better than projections.

“Fiscal Year-to-date arrivals are down 2.4 percent, while calendar year-to-date arrivals are 1.5 percent less when compared to 2017,” GVB said. “Progress has been made in Japan with arrivals showing less of a decrease at -10.3 percent with the assistance of 117 charter flights from Japan to Guam for the month of August, and more active airline routes, including United’s 20 additional flights between Tokyo and Guam.”

GVB also reported that arrivals from Korea grew by 10.3 percent and other markets also showed visitor arrival increases to include the U.S. mainland and Hawaii by 32.5 percent, Taiwan by 7.7 percent, the Russia Federation by 6 percent and the Philippines by 13.5 percent.

However, GVB said arrivals for September are tracking lower than last year primarily due to weather events that have occurred in the Pacific region affecting markets such as Japan, Hong Kong, Hawaii, Philippines and Guam.