Almost every international traveler who's considering spending a vacation on Guam would first check the ratings online.
And in many instances, Guam gets stellar, four- to five-star ratings for the island's beaches, laid-back pace and the natural landscape.
While visitors love Guam's beaches, some have also pointed out flaws that can embarrass any host in any destination. Trash and graffiti remain a problem. We've seen reviews by tourists who also posted photos of hotels in Tumon Bay that should at least do some serious bathroom scrubbing or invest in a complete makeover to give their hotel a fresh look.
The public has a stake in the product that is Guam's tourism vacation experience and the Guam Visitors Bureau is asking residents to provide input as part of crafting its new Tourism 2025 master plan.
Its predecessor, Tourism 2020, under Gov. Eddie Calvo's administration, had forecast 2 million tourists per year by 2020. A lot of that was banking on a surge in arrivals from mainland China. When the Chinese and Russian markets tanked, the forecast was revised to 1.8 million. With current annual arrivals totaling less than 1.6 million, counting on 200,000 additional tourists next year seems like a stretch.
So, now, the new administration's GVB leadership and board are preparing a Tourism 2025 master plan.
And part of the preparation allows the public to have a say.
Anyone can answer GVB’s quick online survey to comment on and assess the state of tourism and help the visitors bureau learn what the public thinks is working working and what isn't.
The survey also asks people their thoughts on the questions or goals that were articulated in Tourism 2020. The questions include:
Should Guam maintain a focus on China during the next five years?
Should Guam establish a special zone in Tumon where there are stricter rules about how properties are maintained?
Should Guam build more hotels or add more hotel rooms in existing hotels?
Should adult businesses like strip clubs remain in Tumon but change the signage law?
Should vacation rentals, including using the Airbnb platform, be encouraged, as long as they pay their share of taxes?
Should Guam be gradually moving from "close and cheap" toward "value for money" and eventually as a "destination of choice"?
Can Guam achieve more than 2 million visitors by 2025?
The next tourism plan and the number of tourists who visit affect all Guamanians. They will affect out roads, our water and wastewater infrastructure, our emergency responders, police, and more.
Some in our community have rallied against relocating 8,000 Marines from Okinawa to our community over several years. Now that fewer than 5,000 Marines are coming, and they’ll be arriving nearly a decade later than first planned, some activists still oppose their relocation to Guam.
Meanwhile, when the visitor industry set a goal of bringing in about 500,000 more tourists each year (the last three years hovered around 1.5 million tourists a year) protesters were quiet or silent.
500,000 more tourists a year averages out to 10,000 more people on Guam in any given week.
While the military buildup and the tourism industry aren't exactly directly an "apples-to-apples" comparison, the point is this: The additional number of people on the streets and beaches and public places would further burden our island’s and our community’s resources.
Do we want 2,000,000 visitors in 2025 and each year thereafter? And if so, how will will we deal with the added strain on our resources?
Now is your chance, members of the public, to speak up.