A word of caution to you adventurous bargain tourists – the average person who slept in that bed before you sheds between 100 and 125 hair strands every day. Nothing says yuck on your dream vacation like a wad of someone else’s oily hair in your 5-star hotel room or the unregulated, off-the-grid short-term lodging service you found trhough Airbnb.
Recent studies among frequent travelers reveal that finding wads of other people’s hair is the No. 1 most unpleasant experience found in out-of-home stays. Coming upon creepy-crawly bugs inappropriately inhabiting the rental abode was the second-most common lousy experience. Encountering the stench of leftover alcoholic beverages was the third-most miserable buzz-killer of a beautiful vacation in paradise.
These same studies suggest that many weary travelers are suspicious that they may be sleeping in bedsheets recently soiled by someone else’s bodily fluids. Is it too much to ask that the bed linen be dryer-fresh when I put my hard-earned dollar into the innkeeper’s hands? Despite slick marketing and too-often false promises, the fact remains that hotel rooms and Airbnb rentals can be hotbeds for bacteria, disease and bedbugs.
Bedbugs are a type of parasitic insect that feed on human blood, preferably from the face, neck and arms of a sleeping person. The bugs have mouth parts that saw through the skin and inject anticoagulant saliva so they can efficiently suck out your blood. The bites can result in a number of health effects including skin rashes, psychological trauma and allergic reactions.
Guam needs more clean hotel rooms now. Japan’s 2019 Golden Week holidays will feature an extra day to recognize Crown Prince Naruhito's succession to the throne. Because of the mesmerizing seductiveness of the Guam Visitors Bureau’s $44 million marketing campaign or because our island is a clean, safe, hospitable island paradise three hours away from 3 billion overstressed people, GVB anticipates five times more tourist-laden charter flights from Japan than last year.
Furthermore, the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020 will likely put an even greater premium on clean, safe lodging on Guam. With proper marketing from the government of Guam, international sports teams and their supporters will find our island paradise an attractive location from which to prepare for Olympic competition. Likewise, Airbnb owners in Tokyo will want to flee from their crowded city so they can watch the Games from the safety and serenity of Guam. For this reason and more, our beautiful island needs more hotel rooms and lodging facilities that don’t have bedbugs, soiled linen or dirty rooms.
Reasonable health, safety and civic regulations are important for everyone — tourists and indigenous islanders alike. Unscrupulous, unregulated, unlicensed Airbnb-type operators are bad for Guam. Slick, sleazy internet sites brazenly advertise local apartments, houses and condo units, and converted furniture store warehouses offer bed spaces to tourists without having complied with local building safety and fire code inspections, in addition to skipping out on tax payments for our island’s roads, schools and hospital.
Over the past two years, illegal Airbnb-type operators, many from Korea, have not paid about $6.5 million in hotel tax to the people of Guam. In that same time, their dutiful, law-abiding local counterparts have diligently contributed more than $80 million in tax revenue to the Tourist Attraction Fund.
While all this tourist money flies around Tumon looking for some way to get off the island, Guam’s hardworking men and women have been paying outrageously high taxes just to feed their children and buy medicine for their sick moms. GovGuam’s inability to collect $90 million in taxes already owed, and its refusal to downsize in the face of decreased federal subsidies, resulted in inhumane tax increases on food and medicine last year. Hopefully, our new leaders will have what it takes to sweep away last year’s tax injustices and get rid of the bloodsucking bedbugs in Tumon.
Vincent Akimoto, of Tamuning, is a family medicine physician.