GVB forecast: 82,600 tourists this fiscal year

QUIET: A once-booming and bustling Pleasure Island in Tumon is now a slow and silent reminder of how things once were. Tourist arrivals this year are expected to fall far short of prior estimates. Officials said they can't be certain when things might get back to some sense of normalcy. Kevin Milan/The Guam Daily Post

While the tourism industry could reopen by March, the forecast for fiscal 2021 has been revised to a new low of 82,600 arrivals because of COVID-19 travel restrictions, Guam Visitors Bureau Vice President Gerry Perez said on Thursday.

This is a fraction of prior estimates of 200,000 to 400,000 arrivals, which were already a sharp decline from the record-breaking 1.631 million arrivals in fiscal 2019.

Arrivals plunged to 757,385 in fiscal 2020, as the pandemic upended tourism.

Officials said 2021 arrivals will be worse before the situation gets better in 2022.

In the first quarter of fiscal 2021, Oct. 1 to Dec. 22, Guam saw 5,000 visitor arrivals, and this was the basis for the revised projection for 2021.

"This (revised forecast) is due to the prolonged impact from COVID-restricted travel and quarantine protocols, as well as Guam protocols, and the issues we have with our Japan, Korea and Taiwan source markets," Perez said at the GVB board meeting.

These three markets make up about 90% of Guam's visitors.

But at the same time, tourism officials are hoping that recovery will be much quicker because of Guam's continued success in fighting off the virus, combined with rapid COVID-19 testing and ongoing vaccination.

"They're all coming together to create a positive outlook," Perez said.

Guam will be lifting more COVID-19 restrictions in the coming days, so this should help spur more economic activity, GVB board Chairman Sonny Ada said.

Perez said GVB is optimistic that the visitor industry will be able to regain 5% to 10% of its pre-COVID-19 activity by the fourth quarter – July to September – and into fiscal 2022.

"We anticipate 60% of arrivals by fiscal 2023. As you can see, unless something drastic happens, this is a slow crawl out," Perez told the board.

Some other tourism updates:

• GVB anticipates that the paperless passenger customs and entry form will be rolled out in March, if internal testing gets completed by early February.

• Japan is seeing its third wave of COVID-19 spikes, while Korea is securing enough COVID-19 vaccine doses for 56 million people so it can begin distribution in February.

• A quarantine and travel corridor with Taiwan is promising, but they only comprise 2% of arrivals to Guam based on 2019 data.

• Right now, hotel occupancy taxes come mostly from military and business travel to Guam, but this is only 8% of the normal level for the industry.

• Airport and tourism officials continue to request the Department of Public Health and Social Services to allow travelers from Japan, Korea and Taiwan with proof of negative PCR test within five days of arrival to not be quarantined here if they stay on Guam for only five days.

• United Airlines never stopped services to Guam; Japan Airlines suspended flights until March; Jin Air could resume flights on Feb. 21; Jeju Air could begin service again in July; China Airlines may resume in March; other airlines plan to resume at a later date.

• GVB continues working with GovGuam agencies such as the Department of Public Works and mayors, to clean up the island.

At the board meeting, some members said they will raise the question of how soon tourism industry personnel can get COVID-19 vaccination as they are also supposed to be considered front-liners.

Haidee Eugenio Gilbert

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