At least three confirmed charter flights from Taiwan in early July will bring more than 500 foreign travelers to get their COVID-19 vaccinations while on vacation, and other flights are now in the works as well, Guam Visitors Bureau President Carl Gutierrez said on Tuesday.
They will be the first tourism-related charter flights to Guam since the COVID-19 pandemic upended Guam's visitor industry in 2020, GVB said.
The flight confirmation comes shortly after Guam's final approval and launch of its Air V&V Guam USA vaccine tourism program late Friday night. The two v's stand for "vaccination" and "vacation."
The three charter flights out of Taiwan are set for July 6, 10 and 14, Gutierrez said. He said they're via "Phoenix Travel and Eva Air."
Each Taiwan charter flight brings 170 passengers, he said.
These charter flights are in addition to those coming to Guam via regularly scheduled flights.
"The response has been tremendous not only from airlines and travel agencies but from (foreign independent tours)," Gutierrez told The Guam Daily Post.
Arrivals from Guam's main tourism markets of Korea and Japan also are expected as travel agents and partners, along with GVB, have started campaigns.
Guam launched its vaccine tourism program, called Air V&V Guam USA, after receiving formal approval late Friday night. The two V's stand for "vaccination" and "vacation."
Air V&V Guam USA has been expanded to include green card holders and non-U.S. citizens, not just the initial target market of American expatriates.
Charter flights from the Philippines are still being planned and Gutierrez hopes this campaign pans out, too.
GVB formally launched marketing campaigns in Asian countries where vaccine rollout is still a challenge, and immediately received confirmations of charter flights as well as hotel bookings and tons of inquiries from interested parties.
"Get vaccinated and go on vacation in one go!" reads an example of a GVB ad for the Philippine market. "Open to all U.S. citizens, green card holders, and Filipino citizens with valid U.S. (visas)."
While charter flights are still firming up from the country, individuals from the Philippines have started making plans to travel to Guam to get vaccinated. The vaccination effort in the Philippines remains low and slow.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday threatened to jail those who refuse COVID-19 vaccines, and told village leaders to keep a list of those who refused to be vaccinated.
His own Cabinet members, however, later clarified that there's no law compelling citizens to get vaccinated.
Under Guam's Air V&V, foreign travelers and expats can get their COVID-19 vaccinations on their second day of arrival on Guam, from the comfort of their hotel rooms.
The travelers have to book, prior to their arrival on Guam, an all-inclusive Air V&V package with one of the 10 participating Guam hotels.
The hotels will assist in scheduling the vaccinations and PCR test appointments for Air V&V participants, GVB said.
"This was one of the many programs we've been working on with GVB, starting with vaccines at the worksites for tourism industry employees and getting Air V&V launched so we can begin to work on reopening our tourism industry," Guam Hotel and Restaurant Association President Mary Rhodes said.
The participating hotels are Dusit Thani Guam Resort, Grand Plaza Hotel, Guam Reef Hotel, Hotel Nikko Guam, Hyatt Regency Guam, LeoPalace Resort, Lotte Hotel, Pacific Islands Club, Royal Orchid Hotel and the Tsubaki Tower, officials stated.
Guam Regional Medical City and American Medical Center are the medical providers for the program, while the Japan Guam Travel Association is responsible for ground transportation.
"GVB and the designated hotels have been fielding inquiries for some time now regarding Air V&V, as well as the Guam Chamber of Commerce and our industry stakeholders. I understand there is interest for charter flights as well," she said.
'Floodgates will open'
Gutierrez believes that Guam will see more arrivals when the island reaches its 80% herd immunity goal with fully vaccinated residents. About 6,000 more residents need to be fully vaccinated to hit the 96,000 goal by July 21.
"The floodgates will open," the former governor said.
Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero's office also sees vaccine tourism as strengthening Guam's humanitarian role in the region, given Guam's high full vaccination rate among its residents and the availability of federal COVID-19 vaccine supply.
Guam also expects to see tourist arrivals from Korea and other markets, now that quarantine requirements have been lifted for those who enter Guam as fully vaccinated travelers or who have negative PCR or antigen test results.
"This program captures a unique demographic of travelers around the world that are tired of waiting to get vaccinated in this pandemic. This will give a shot in the arm to our tourism industry through this unique and valuable service, offering more opportunities to put our people back to work and get our economy roaring again," Gutierrez said in a statement released by GVB late Tuesday afternoon.
Some key information for foreign travelers, as well as American expats, coming to Guam for the Air V&V program:
- A foreign traveler needs a U.S. visa to enter Guam.
- The program is open to U.S. citizens, green card holders and non-U.S. citizens.
- The foreign traveler or American expat needs to book and pay an Air V&V Guam USA package and agree to the voluntary quarantine protocols.
- Like other travelers, a traveler who is not fully vaccinated is required to have negative PCR test results 72 hours or less prior to arrival on Guam.
- One can get the COVID-19 vaccination on the second day while in the hotel under quarantine.
- One can test for COVID-19 on day 6 and can get released from quarantine if the test results are negative, and enjoy Guam just like other vacationers. Wearing a mask and social distancing are required.
- The available COVID-19 vaccines on Guam are the ones authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration: the double-dose Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, and the single-dose Johnson & Johnson Janssen vaccine.
- Depending on the vaccine of choice, a traveler can stay on Guam under the Air V&V program for three days to more than a month.
- They are required to register with Sara Alert for monitoring up to 14 days, and download the Guam COVID Alert App.
- As part of the program, they will also get a PCR test no more than 72 hours prior to departure.
- Participants will depart Guam with their vaccination records and vaccination health authority records.
- For additional information about the vaccine tourism program, visit GVB's website at visitguam.com/airvv or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
GVB, in a statement, thanked the following for helping to get Air V&V off the ground: GVB board led by Chairman Milton Morinaga, the governor, GHRA, Department of Public Health and Social Services, Physicians Advisory Group led by Chairman Dr. Hoa Nguyen, and Col. Mike Cruz and the Guam Surgeon Cell.