Guam plans CNMI-style ‘travel bucks’ tourism incentive program

Many restaurants and tourism-related businesses have been adversely affected by the lack of tourists visiting the island. A bill proposing a $500 debit card to be distributed to residents for use in local establishments is aimed at helping out these struggling businesses. (PNC file photo)

Guam’s tourism officials are planning to establish a CNMI-style ‘travel bucks’ tourism investment program to boost the island’s struggling tourism industry.

To stimulate more economic activity, the CNMI government plans to give each tourist visiting the CNMI $250 to $500 per island (Saipan, Tinian, Rota) in “travel bucks” to spend at qualified businesses, such as optional tours, retail stores, and restaurants.

During Thursday’s Guam Visitors Bureau board meeting, chairman Milton Morinaga said the Guam Hotel Restaurant Association wants to spearhead a similar incentive program on Guam.

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Hotel and restaurant members of GHRA have been suffering from the lack of tourists visiting Guam.

GHRA has been looking at adopting an incentive program similar to the one in Hawaii wherein some $75 million in federal COVID relief money have been invested in $500 debit cards distributed to residents for them to spend on restaurants and other tourism-related benefits.

Morinaga said something similar may be done on Guam with the federal money the island is receiving.

He said GVB will not be spending any money on this and the one that will be in charge of funding would be the Guam Economic Development Authority.

Morinaga said GHRA is now talking with GEDA to see if such an incentive program can be put up on Guam. GVB will be helping in the planning and implementation of the incentive program.

Such an incentive program for the island’s long-suffering tourism businesses is deemed crucial as more businesses continue to remain closed. Morinaga said many restaurants and some hotels have remained closed due to the lack of tourism business.

The CNMI incentive program, called Tourism Resumption Investment Plan, or TRIP, will have an initial two-month pilot period beginning in mid-July, during which the CNMI government will provide subsidies to airlines, hotels, travel agencies, and related businesses to help jumpstart tourism.

On Guam, GVB President Carl Gutierrez had said Adelup has already committed $20 million to help prop up Guam’s tourism.

In the CNMI, businesses interested in being a part of the incentive program will need to apply and qualify for the World Travel and Tourism Council Safe Travels Stamp, which is a program to ensure businesses comply with COVID-19 safety protocols.

Many tourism businesses on Guam already have the WTTC safe travels stamp.