Agencies disagree on how to apply incentive dollars

Many restaurants and tourism-related businesses have been adversely affected by the lack of tourists visiting the island. (PNC file photo)

The Guam Economic Development Authority is not interested in subsidizing the Guam Visitors Bureau’s “Hafa Price” tourism incentive program.

Announced by GVB last week, the planned “Hafa Price” program gives incentives to tour agents, airlines, hotels, and tourists to generate travel demand in Guam’s tourism markets.

However, Guam Hotel and Restaurant Association president Mary Rhodes said GEDA is not interested in GVB’s program.

“I met with GEDA and we talked about the ‘Revive & Thrive’ program. They’re not interested in the ‘Hafa’ program. Actually, what they want to do is really related more to getting employment back up and companies rehiring,” Rhodes told members of the Recovery Task Force during its meeting today.

She added: “So, I talked to Dave Dell’Isola of Labor as well as Joann and Ed from GEDA and they’re interested in putting together a program that will be more consumer-based. It would be more of a debit card. The concept is really to get incentives out to people who are working, and never received PUA, as well as people who were on PUA and have gotten a job.”

GVB had been hoping to get some support from GEDA for its “Hafa Price” incentive program.

But Rhodes said GEDA is interested in more of a “re-employment” concept so that they can recirculate that money back and help support businesses.

“They did not want to do this ‘Hafa’ dollars program and the half-price for vouchers. They want to really tie incentives into a rehiring or employment strategy with the employer groups,” Rhodes said.

But Sam Shinohara, the chair of the Recovery Task Force, commented that the goal of the “Hafa” incentive program will also help workers and employers because it will revive the tourism industry, and along with it, the tourism-related businesses that can then rehire most of its laid-off workers.

He added that the “Hafa” program could “hit two birds with one stone” by on the one hand attracting tourists to visit Guam, and on the other hand, reviving the tourism businesses on island that would lead to the rehiring of workers.

Shinohara said he and the other members of GVB and the Recovery Task Force plan to meet with GEDA to discuss the matter further.

Rhodes said it is probably a good idea for all the agencies to meet together.

She said GEDA wants the same thing — to incentivize tourists and also help the local population.

“So the intent is really all there, and the conversations have been taking place, but I think you’re right, Sam, probably a joint meeting would be better,” Rhodes said.