Guam has opened its doors to foreign travelers who want to get a COVID-19 vaccine while vacationing, officials said Monday, highlighting Guam's humanitarian role and boosting its pandemic-hit tourism.
Hotels and travel agents, as well as other tourism partners, on Monday officially started marketing Air V&V Guam USA – which stands for "vaccination and vacation" – for American expatriates and other non-American travelers.
This was according to Guam Hotel and Restaurant Association President Mary Rhodes, Guam Visitors Bureau's Director of Global Marketing Nadine Leon Guerrero and Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero's office.
"Air V&V is now open to everyone, not just expats," GVB's Nadine Leon Guerrero said.
Under the Air V&V Guam USA vaccine tourism program, anyone who wants to visit Guam to get vaccinated against COVID-19 needs to book in advance a full travel package including hotel stay, transportation to and from the airport, and COVID-19 vaccination on their second day here.
Depending on their COVID-19 vaccine of choice, a traveler can stay on Guam for a minimum of three days up to 32 days or more.
Air V&V Guam USA packages range from $150 to $350 per night of hotel stay, and hotels are extremely flexible, knowing every traveler is different, GVB said.
Rhodes said foreign travelers and expats can now book their Air V&V Guam USA package with any of the 10 participating hotels:
- Dusit Thani Guam Resort
- Grand Plaza Hotel
- Guam Reef Hotel
- Hotel Nikko Guam
- Hyatt Regency Guam
- LeoPalace Resort Guam
- Lotte Hotel Guam
- Pacific Islands Club Guam
- Royal Orchid Guam Hotel
- Tsubaki Tower (Guam)
Late Friday night, the Department of Public Health and Social Services approved the Air V&V program and issued the seven-page standard operating procedure that GHRA prepared, Rhodes and Nadine Leon Guerrero said.
Shortly after that, word reached tour agents, hotels and tourism partners.
"This SOP is in support of vaccine tourism to allow entry for expatriates and tourists into Guam while following the government of Guam's quarantine protocols during their stay at designated hotels, which are approved by Department of Public Health and Social Services," the SOP reads, in part.
GVB has been active in bringing awareness to Air V&V in its source markets for the last several weeks and continues to communicate any updated hotel information related to the program, said GVB's Leon Guerrero.
"However, booking mechanisms are still being worked on," she added. "Some ads for the program have gone out internationally, with more being developed as we speak. GVB will continue to work with Guam Hotel and Restaurant Association, the Surgeon Cell and DPHSS to keep the program supported."
Humanitarian, tourism reasons
Guam's priority continues to be getting a majority of its residents fully vaccinated to reach 80% herd immunity by July 21, but it's also helping the U.S. government's efforts of getting as many people inoculated as possible.
"We want to share the success Guam has had with vaccinations with others," according to Krystal Paco-San Agustin, the governor's director of communications.
She said Guam is doing this for both humanitarian reasons, and to help welcome back visitors to the island.
"The president has repeatedly stated it will take a global response to address a global pandemic," she said, adding that Guam does not foresee issues with COVID-19 vaccine supplies at this time.
The governor has reached out to the White House about vaccinating foreign travelers on Guam.
At least 90,650 have been fully vaccinated on Guam, some 6,000 shy of the target 96,000 to reach herd immunity by the time Guam celebrates its 77th Liberation Day.
To help reach that goal, the Guam government launched its Vax N' Win program, offering those fully vaccinated a chance to win $10,000 cash or a brand new car every Wednesday leading to July 21.
The pandemic hit Guam's tourism industry, with its main source markets of Korea, Japan and Taiwan abruptly halting their travels since the second quarter of calendar year 2020.
Guam has been lifting travel restrictions as it has kept cases, hospitalizations and death rates low.
The latest includes also allowing those fully vaccinated with vaccines other than the U.S. Food and Drug Administration-authorized Moderna, Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson vaccines to also skip quarantine, provided the vaccines are at least authorized for emergency use by the World Health Organization, such as AstraZeneca.
Those who will be coming to Guam as part of Air V&V would still be required to undergo quarantine at the self-paid hotel of their choice.
Under the program, they would get their COVID-19 vaccine on their second day of quarantine, and the main providers are Guam Regional Medical City and American Medical Center.
The Air V&V Guam USA program SOP covers the responsibilities of:
- GVB – marketing and promoting the vaccine tourism program to external markets and coordinating and supporting the transfer of expatriates and tourists from arrival areas at the airport to the designated hotel
- Hotels – developing the vaccine tourism packages to contacting providers should an expatriate or tourist need medical attention during quarantine
- GRMC and AMC – vaccinating the expatriates and tourists with a COVID-19 vaccine or conducting PCR tests at a designated hotel
- Quarantined expatriates and tourists – booking and paying for vaccine tourism packages, and abiding by Guam's quarantine rules
- Japan Guam Travel Association – coordinating and managing the transfer of expatriates and tourists from arrival areas at the airport, and coordinating communication with the designated hotel.
Guam is the latest destination to officially launch a COVID-19 vaccine tourism program to entice travel while helping to vaccinate the world's population, even as many countries are still struggling with their vaccine rollout.
GVB and its tourism partners have also been weighing incentives for tourists who are already fully vaccinated in their countries, to entice them to visit Guam.