Guam welcomed 1.52 million tourists in fiscal year 2018, making it the second-best fiscal year in local tourism history, the Guam Visitors Bureau stated. Fiscal 2017 remains Guam’s best year for tourism, when 1.55 million visited the island.
Beneath the total lies the Japan market's continuing slide. The once-dominant Japan market, which used to account for more than 80 percent of Guam's tourists, now provides 35 percent of the market.
South Korea, formerly in second place, has become Guam's main source of tourists, with 49 percent of the market.
In September, the last month of the budget year, Japan arrivals decreased 11.3 percent. Arrivals from South Korea also dipped by 1.9 percent, which GVB attributed in part to Typhoon Mangkhut.
GVB President and CEO Nathan Denight said overall the numbers are a milestone.
“I want to congratulate our tourism industry on this latest milestone. It wasn’t easy, but we achieved great momentum in our recovery efforts to continue growing and diversifying our source markets," he said.
The Japanese market continued to decline in fiscal 2018, losing nearly 145,000 Japanese arrivals compared with the previous fiscal year's total.
The South Korea market continued to rise in fiscal 2018, bringing 100,000 more Korean tourists than in fiscal 2017.
“There were a lot of challenges this year, but we were able to come together and work together to overcome them,” Denight said.
“We’re not out of the woods yet.”
Airline service sways arrivals
There were 674,345 Japanese tourists who visited Guam in fiscal 2017, but only 530,057 Japanese tourists visited in fiscal 2018.
There were 649,434 Korean tourists who visited Guam in fiscal 2017, and a record 752,715 Korean tourists visited in fiscal 2018.
North Korea's threats to fire missiles toward Guam in August 2017 lowered arrival numbers across the island’s tourism markets in the following months, Denight said, but excluding the South Korean market.
Airlines canceling service to Guam also contributed to lower arrivals, notably from Japan, he added.
GVB worked through fiscal 2018 to try and recover its market numbers by offering charter flight incentives and marketing Guam in the region.
Charter flights increasing
Over fiscal 2018, Denight said, GVB focused on regaining airlines and airline seat capacity. Delta Airlines’ decision to end service to Guam in January cut 30 percent of Japan airline seats to Guam, he said.
Added flights from United Airlines, as well as other low-cost carriers, helped ease the loss of seats.
Guam will see increased airline seats from Japan through the rest of the year, GVB stated. Japan Airlines extended its second daily flight service between Narita and Guam through March 2019.
United will reintroduce its Boeing 777-200 aircraft starting Oct. 28 for two of its three daily flights from Tokyo. United’s Guam-Nagoya route will also see four more flights a week beginning Dec. 2.
Through the end of the year, Guam will also see 471 charter flights come in from Japan, which is double the number of charter flights in 2017. GVB stated Guam will welcome more than 600 charter flights in 2019, bringing an additional 119,000 airplane seats to the island.
“It’s been a big help for us,” Denight said on charter flight service. “Of course, at the end of the day, you want regular service that’s going to fly year-round no matter what, but in the interim, it’s been a big help.”