GVB seeks more perks for tourists

NO TOURISTS: Without tourists, the beaches of Tumon Bay remain mostly empty, as seen on Thursday, June 3, 2021. David Castro/The Guam Daily Post

Guam Visitors Bureau officials on Thursday not only voted to seek quarantine exemption for nonvaccinated travelers who can present negative COVID-19 test results, but also announced plans to give vouchers or other types of incentives to tourists.

As of Thursday afternoon, Adelup said it was still reviewing GVB's adopted resolution seeking an expanded exemption to the mandatory quarantine.

Quarantine exemption upon entry to Guam, starting on May 15, has been granted to those who can show proof they are fully vaccinated with the Moderna, Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Now, GVB wants Guam to follow Hawaii's lead in also allowing those with negative COVID-19 test results to enter without going through a 10-day quarantine.

Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero earlier in the year planned a testing-based quarantine to reopen tourism, but her medical advisers said that protocol allows only for a 13.1% risk reduction. So Guam chose a protocol that's vaccination-based.

Guam's tourism officials have been looking for ways to welcome back tourists after more than a year of a near standstill, especially now that most vaccine-eligible residents have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

At the Thursday meeting, the GVB board of directors, led by Chairman Milton Morinaga, adopted a resolution that:

  • Requests that the Department of Public Health and Social Services allow unvaccinated visitors, including minors, to skip the mandatory quarantine upon entry to Guam if they can present a negative COVID-19 test result, and the test was taken within 72 hours prior to travel;
  • Requests implementation of safe protocols so that military personnel and allied military personnel visiting Guam for duty or liberty can enjoy what the island has to offer, provided they are fully vaccinated or present a negative COVID-19 test result; and
  • Tasks the GVB management team to work with the Guam Hotel and Restaurant Association and the Department of Public Health and Social Services on safe reopening procedures.

GVB has succeeded in persuading the governor to soon allow those fully vaccinated with AstraZeneca to skip quarantine, pending the final approval of Public Health.

The governor is now preparing to issue an executive order related to AstraZeneca vaccination, according to GVB President Carl Gutierrez.

Incentives for tourists, residents

Morinaga announced that GHRA, in partnership with GVB and the Guam Economic Development Authority, is working on an initiative to offer an incentives program for tourists.

This would be similar to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands tourism investment program, Morinaga said. The CNMI plan involves giving each tourist $250 to $500 in "travel bucks" per island they visit, such as Saipan, Tinian and Rota.

These tourists could spend their travel bucks at qualified retail stores, restaurants, optional tours and other qualified businesses that have received a World Travel and Tourism Council Safe Travel Stamp.

GVB officials said several Guam businesses are now also WTTC Safe-certified so it would be easy to adopt a similar incentives program here, which could also use federal pandemic recovery funds. Adelup has committed $20 million for tourism recovery, GVB officials said.

GovGuam itself already has an incentives program for its residents, also using federal pandemic funds.

To ensure at least 96,000 individuals get fully vaccinated by July 21 amid declining demand for doses, GovGuam launched the Vax N' Win program, offering fully vaccinated individuals a chance to win $10,000 cash, a new car or other prizes.

As of 1 p.m. Thursday, GVB has received more than 30,000 entries.

Some 85,500 residents have been fully vaccinated as of Wednesday, out of the 96,000-plus needed by July 21 to achieve 80% herd immunity for the island.

Air V&V

GVB, along with Public Health, continues to develop its Air V&V, or vaccination and vacation, program for American expatriates.

More than 200 separate requests from individuals, families and organizations from countries where there are American expats have reached out to GVB, according to Nadine Leon Guerrero, director of global marketing for GVB.

Gutierrez said these are on top of those who want to charter flights to Guam just to get vaccinated here.

On Tuesday, he said he talked to Philippine Airlines officials who told him that they're willing to transport American expats from Bangkok, Thailand, to Guam, nonstop, when the Air V&V program is formally launched.

The governor has asked the White House whether it could increase the COVID-19 vaccine dose allocation for Guam, for it to also vaccinate non-American citizens. Gutierrez said Guam awaits a decision on that request.

Gutierrez said besides hotels and other tourism partners, health care facilities such as Guam Regional Medical City and American Medical Center are working to put together the vaccination and vacation packages.

He said T Galleria by DFS also is willing to provide a space in Tumon where clinics can administer vaccinations to expats.

There's a "ray of sunshine" again, Gutierrez said, after more than a year of slumping tourism because of the pandemic.

Korean tourists are expected to be the first ones to arrive on Guam, with Jeju Air and other airlines from Korea firming up their plans, officials said.

Haidee Eugenio Gilbert


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