Tourism spending numbers show that South Korean visitors spend less on island compared with Japanese visitors.
The Guam Visitors Bureau conducts exit surveys every month. The data is compiled into a visitor tracker exit profile and market segmentation report on the island's major tourism markets.
In 2017, South Korea overtook Japan, providing Guam with 684,443 tourists, or 44 percent of the market.
In 2013, Guam received 893,118 tourists from Japan and 245,655 from South Korea.
South Korean tourists, according to a new GVB exit survey, spend an average of $187 per visitor. Japanese tourists spend much more, on average $578 per traveler during their visit to Guam.
GVB management has stated South Koreans tend to stay longer than the Japanese tourists, whose average stay is three nights.
Korean visitors, according to the report, spend an average of $144.16 for outside-hotel food and beverage, $51.29 for gifts or souvenirs, and $35.50 for transportation.
In comparison, Japanese visitors, according to the report, spend an average of $146.58 for outside-hotel food and beverage, $228.73 for gifts or souvenirs, and $30.04 for transportation.
A total of 353 departing Korean visitors and 349 departing Japan visitors were randomly interviewed for the exit survey. Both surveys have a margin of error of plus or minus 5.2 percentage points with a 95 percent confidence level, according to the report.
The highlighted sectors for the surveys include repeat visitors, leisure travelers, honeymoon and wedding tours, group tours and visitors who come here for conventions, meetings and other work-related travel.
Local economy 'hurting'
Natasha Blas is a cashier who has worked at a convenience store in Tumon for a year, selling on-the-go goods to a mix of tourists and locals.
"(Tourists) come in here for mainly little stuff – drinks, something to snack on and some hygiene products."
In her experience, tourists are not big spenders at the convenience store, and usually spend less than $10.
Blas said few Korean customers had visited the store over the past year.
"We did see a lot less Japanese (business)," she said. "We have the (Korean) rent-a-car next door, but (Koreans) don't come too much."
Arnel Cruz, a taxi driver in Tumon, said he spends his days giving tourists rides, mostly to Hagåtña, Two Lovers Point and the A.B. Won Pat International Airport.
"We are having a hard time right now because the Japanese tourists are down," said the 17-year veteran of Guam's tourism industry.
"That's hurting us – the loss of the Japanese market. I think the Korean market is helping us, but not as much as the Japanese."
Cruz said occasionally he will pick up and drop off Korean clientele to the island's scenic sites, but for the most part Koreans don't use his taxi service.
He said there is a significant difference between Guam's tourism market today and the market of the late 1990s and early 2000s.
"You don't have to worry about your trip business, because there's a lot of people taking the taxi before, because there's no trolley bus."
Joe Borja, sales manager at Tiffany and Co. at Tumon Sands Plaza, said Japanese tourists are still Guam's "bread and butter."
"The Japanese are still our strongest consumers as far as spending goes," he said.
"We appreciate the number of Korean arrivals, definitely it helps. But as far as overall spending, the Japanese consumers are right up there."
Borja also said an increase in Korean arrivals has not necessarily translated to an increase in customers to Tiffany and Co.
The breakout visitor market of calendar year 2017 was Korea, with an all-time high of 684,443 visitors, up 26 percent compared to last year. The increase in the Korea market helped offset declines in other markets including Japan, Taiwan and China.
The total visitor arrival numbers showed a further erosion of Guam's Japanese visitor market, which decreased by 16.8 percent – 125,133 fewer Japanese tourists – compared with 2016.
Japan now makes up just 40 percent of total visitor arrivals to Guam, compared to 80 percent of the market about a decade ago. Guam saw 620,547 Japanese tourists last year.