The Guam Visitors Bureau is still waiting for the $20 million in federal pandemic recovery funds that it has been expecting for months now, even as tourists have started to come back.
Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero on Tuesday announced that $20 million in American Rescue Plan funding is to be invested in GVB for the "Reimagine Guam" project, which the governor said will enhance the island's tourism profile and bring back tourists.
This comes days after the governor said Guam should shift toward more culture-oriented tourism as GVB works on a strategy to reinvigorate the visitor industry.
As of Tuesday, GVB had not received a portion of the $20 million. As early as February, GVB officials were already anticipating federal pandemic relief funds.
The $20 million is part of the $570 million in ARP funding for Guam, on top of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, or CARES, Act funding, the massive federal infrastructure funding, the federal Build Back Better initiative and other federal pandemic response and recovery funding - all keeping Guam from going under during COVID-19.
"We're working on a major initiative that Gov. Leon Guerrero will announce at the appropriate time," GVB Vice President Gerry Perez said Tuesday, when asked about the GVB programs that would need the $20 million.
The governor also said $15 million will be used to upgrade Guam's airport facilities "because our airport is the first and last glimpse our visitors see of our beautiful island."
"While we definitely need to diversify our economy, our tourism industry is still our mainstay. We are investing in it because so many of you are invested in it through your jobs and because your livelihoods depend upon our tourists returning," the governor said.
Guam went from having a record high 1.6 million visitor arrivals in fiscal 2019, prior to the pandemic, to 60,343 arrivals in fiscal 2021, but it is hoping that fiscal 2022 will see close to 200,000 visitors.
The governor has also authorized $25 million in grants for tourism-related businesses to be administered by the Guam Economic Development Authority.