Editor's note: this article has been updated to include travel costs for A.B. Won Pat International Airport Authority officials, which were pending at initial publishing.
As the island continues to weave its way out of the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, Guam Visitors Bureau officials and key stakeholders in Guam's tourism industry are busy promoting the resumption of direct services to the island from Japan, through the Gogo Guam! Roadshow.
The campaign began Monday in Fukuoka, ahead of Thursday's launch of United Airlines' semiweekly service to Guam.
"GVB President/CEO Carl Gutierrez, GVB Chairman Milton Morinaga and (Guam International Airport Authority) Executive Manager John M. Quinata, lead the contingent, along with active GVB members - Alupang Beach Club, Baldyga Group, Dusit Thani/Dusit Beach Resort, Guam Premier Outlets, Skydive Guam, T Galleria by DFS Guam, United Airlines-Fukuoka, Onward Beach Resort, Kloppenburg Enterprises, Premier Hotel Group (Tsubaki, Nikko, PIC, Rihga and Hilton) - in promoting the resumption of direct service and showcasing the quality hotels and activities Guam has to offer to visitors from the Kyushu region," a release from the airport stated.
Sam Shinohara, managing director of airport operations for the Asia Pacific region at United, said the airline also resumed service to Nagoya on Monday. With services to Fukuoka returning Thursday, Shinohara said the airline is starting off at two flights per week for each city until demand picks up.
"We started flying in Osaka in the beginning of July and, so far, we've got a good response in Osaka," Shinohara said. "Nagoya and Fukuoka are both slightly smaller markets. But we're committed to rebuilding the visitor industry in Guam and there's no better way to rebuild it than actually having a service that people know they can book and fly. So, this is kind of our start."
Nagoya and Fukuoka were the last two cities from which United suspended flights to Guam. Shinohara said the plan is to get back to the flight activity pre-pandemic.
"We've got a ways to go. In Osaka, we're flying three times a week, we used to fly 14 times a week. So we've got a lot more frequencies to add. Same thing for Nagoya. Pre-COVID, we were flying 14 times a week. And now it's just two times a week at this juncture. And Fukuoka used to be daily and we're only two times a week right now. That's going to be our growth, ... restoring our network to the flight activity we had previously," Shinohara said.
GVB also announced Thursday in a press release that Japan Airlines had resumed direct service between Tokyo/Narita and Guam for August and September. The inaugural flight took place Thursday afternoon, bringing 78 passengers to Guam. The release stated this was the first time JAL operated the route since the onset of the pandemic.
Quinata stated in the airport release that he wants airlines to know the airport authority is committed "to providing a business environment conducive for service to Guam."
"We support our current operators in every way possible as they resume services, and are actively marketing to new entrants and new destinations as the aviation industry recovers in the Asia-Pacific region," Quinata added.
Gutierrez said co-promoting airport incentives with GVB marketing support and the presence of industry stakeholders make a "great collaborative show" of what they are doing to establish Guam as the preferred destination for Japan.
Gutierrez also stated in the release that the delegation will be meeting with government officials in Okayama "to foster the long-established sister city relationship between Guam and Okayama."
That meeting appears to have initiated already, with Japanese media reporting that Gutierrez and 12 others visited the Okayama prefectural office seeking the revival of the Okayama-Guam route. The route was launched in 1998, but suspended in 2015. The prefecture hopes to use the courtesy call as a collaborative opportunity with GVB and as a foothold for the revival of regular routes, according to the report.
The delegation will continue the campaign in Shizuoka, where GVB and airport officials will explore partnerships to co-market respective airport connections to low-cost carriers, doubling financial and other incentives to build traffic, according to Gutierrez. The cost of travel plus per diem, from Aug. 1 to Aug. 7, for the GVB president, GVB chair, GVB marketing manager and GVB marketing coordinator is $13,000.
The total cost of travel for Airport Executive Manager John Quinata, Marketing Administrator and spokesperson Rolenda Lujan Faasuamalie, and Program Coordinator Elfrieda Koshiba is $11,811.97, paid for by the airport authority.