More vaccination clinics offered as we march, cautiously, toward a post-pandemic Guam

COVID-19: Matapang Beach, a favorite spot for locals in Tumon and once frequented by tourists, awaits tourism's reopening. Several COVID-19 vaccination clinics are set to take place this weekend and next week as the island pushes for herd immunity. Post file photo

Tourism's standstill for most of last year caused a 41% decrease in the collection of hotel room tax payments.

Hotel occupancy tax collections plummeted by $18.3 million from $44.7 million in fiscal year 2019 to $26.4 million a year later, according to an audit of the Tourist Attraction Fund.

Hotel room tax collections go to the fund. Money from hotel occupancy tax collections also helps to fund the Guam Visitors Bureau. 

Payments to the visitors bureau decreased by $6.9 million as a result of the reduced hotel tax collections. The Mayors' Council of Guam also saw a $1.2 million decrease in funding while the Department of Parks and Recreation received a $267,000 reduction.

The total decline in expenditures was not enough to offset the massive decline in revenues, according to the audit, released Wednesday by the Office of Public Accountability. Ernst & Young LLP auditors conducted the audit and did not find material weaknesses or significant deficiencies.

The government hopes to reopen Guam’s tourism industry by next month during which tax revenue collections may slowly recover, according to the audit report.

Hotel tax revenues collected from hotels providing quarantine shelter will provide sufficient funding for fiscal 2021 payments of GovGuam debt that pledged hotel occupancy tax collections as a source of repayment, according to the audit.

Significant reductions for fiscal 2021 spending will still be required, the audit stated.

In a separate management letter, the independent auditors noted fund’s fiscal 2020 books were not closed on a timely basis.

The Department of Administration told auditors the delay’s root cause was that the financial management system was not updated to include financial year closing as a standard feature. Further, additional man-hours incurred could have been avoided if an updated financial management system was in place, the audit report states.

DOA’s preferred remedy is to invest in a new financial management system that incorporates all required year-end closing procedures as standard features, the audit report states.

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