We note, with interest, your editorial (Oct. 27, The Guam Daily Post) on “niche tourism,” and the merits of a low-density, high-yield market profile. We agree that the pandemic has changed the future of Guam’s tourism industry, not least the business model to which we had become accustomed.
Actually, the “bubble” concept that you suggest is an initiative that we had been actively discussing with our Japan, Korea and Taiwan markets when Guam’s positivity rate was below 3% and similarly reflected in these markets. This quarantine bubble strategy was supported by the government’s “no testing” policy for people staying fewer than five days on a reciprocal basis.
You recall that we even did a major cleanup campaign on Aug. 1 and were anticipating some green shoots of activity in line with airline scheduling in early October. We were working toward this goal, with industry expectations that the governments of Japan, Korea and Taiwan will consider this travel quarantine corridor favorably, when sudden spikes of the virus in these countries started appearing in July, and on Guam in August, totally derailing the entire meaning of a travel bubble destination concept.
Unlike past “V-shaped” recoveries from natural disasters, and even the five-month bounce back from SARS (MERS did not affect arrivals), we can anticipate a longer and more prolonged recovery due to fundamental changes in new travel protocols, consumer behavior, and supply chain adjustments.
You correctly point out that the new paradigm in travel and tourism will be less reliant on a volume-driven marketing and distribution philosophy, and driven more by a value proposition shrouded in a hygienic and health safety destination experience. Retooling the island’s value chain to balance and optimize scale, personalized customer service and financial viability is no easy task. But it is a community challenge ignored at our peril.
Gerry Perez is the deputy general manager of the Guam Visitors Bureau.