By now, most of you have heard that Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero has ordered Dr. Mike Cruz, state surgeon for the Guam Army National Guard, to formulate a plan to allow U.S. citizens living in Pacific Asia to get vaccinated on Guam.
Following the governor’s lead and recent reports in The Guam Daily Post about American expatriate businessmen from Thailand and the Philippines emerging from quarantine in U.S. Guam to inoculate, explore and take care of other business, the idea is gaining rapid momentum.
The Guam Visitors Bureau’s new Air V&V marketing program is a culmination of this blossoming medical tourism trend. And with some expats now discovering Guam for the first time, it could open a whole new sustainable market of return visitors and help get service sector employees back to work again.
Putting a spin on the popular Airbnb brand that allows residential property owners to globally market their housing for short-term rent, Air V&V is shorthand for “fly in for vaccination and vacation.”
A shot in the arm
Vaccine tourism is already earning regular local news exposure. And if Air V&V fulfills its potential, it could begin regenerating substantial visitor industry revenue and service sector employment following 14 months of heavy losses due to the pandemic.
GVB is encouraged by Gov. Leon Guerrero’s outreach to Army Gen. Gus Perna for more vaccine doses to help support this new form of antiviral tourism. Perna is CEO of America’s Operation Warp Speed and has reportedly agreed to increase supplies to Guam as demand for inoculation services rises. So, GVB and its partners are now appealing directly to Asia-Pacific-based U.S. expatriates for COVID-19-safe vaccination-and-vacation tour packages to Guam.
Assuming enough Pacific-area expats are willing to invest in paid travel to an American destination within the region so they can freely access world-class COVID-19 vaccines, Air V&V has the potential to be a real game-changer. At a time when dosages are in short supply in parts of East Asia, vaccine tourism could prove to be the door wedge we need to safely reopen our visitor industry in alignment with the governor’s pending plan to carefully relax quarantine protocols.
Under COVID-19 safety guidelines, pretested expats are welcome to fly to Guam to receive Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. Naturally, they’re encouraged to stay for as long as it takes them to get their full dosing before returning home. In the case of Pfizer and Moderna, that means visitors could stay for three and four weeks, respectively, between the two shots administered in accordance with these brands’ standard dosing regimens.
What we already know is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does require all international travelers to have a negative viral test upon boarding. The CDC further recommends that those travelers test three to five days after arrival and undergo a seven-day quarantine. While Guam has yet to decide how to implement the Air V&V program, it’s our hope that these CDC guidelines are incorporated.
While helping protect Pacific Asia from the virus through the inoculation of American expats, our Air V&V program will effectively help Guam test its first COVID-19-safe travel bubbles, too. From there, the opportunity could mushroom into a wider spectrum of inoculated individuals, including those from our island’s primary tourism source markets of Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. The Philippines, too, is ripe for the harvest, as hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens already live there.
A good reason to get Guam working again
Our swiftest path to solid economic recovery is one that safely scales our island back up toward full employment. That means we need to choose our vehicles wisely.
First and foremost, we must follow the money. I’m not talking about fly-by-night money that’s here today and gone tomorrow. I’m talking about attaching Guam to the most relevant investments of our day. And right now the stars are aligned for vaccine tourism.
Former Gov. Carl T.C. Gutierrez serves as chairman of the Governor’s Economic Strategy Council, permit czar, and president & CEO of the Guam Visitors Bureau. Your comments and questions are welcome at email@example.com.