Gutierrez plans a total upgrade of Guam’s tourism industry

Guam Visitors Bureau president and former governor Carl T.C. Gutierrez. (PNC file photo)

The island’s tourism industry is eyeing a total upgrade, according to the Guam Visitors Bureau’s interim president and former governor Carl Gutierrez.

While Gutierrez confirmed with PNC on Friday that tourism is set to reopen on July 1, he said the industry should use this time as a turning point.

“Everyone was vying for the cheapest and the highest numbers of people coming here. We’re trying to make sure that the people that come here are the ones we want, that can spend money here and not just hold space in a hotel or a BnB,” Gutierrez said.

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Gutierrez says we should be focused on picking quality over quantity when it comes to tourists, saying bringing back tourism to what it once was should be the goal as well as addressing the lack of safety in recent years and increasing homeless populations downtown.

“I think it’s going to give us the time to just reimagine Guam the way we started out in tourism, where it was like open space everywhere, and everyone is happy about it. Nobody is out there robbing you. So, we’re going to take that opportunity…and once we do that, I think people will start to come back for the reasons they did in the first place when we opened up tourism in 1967 —- the people, the culture, the Chamorro-centric,” Gutierrez said.

GVB is also looking at the bigger picture, with more investments and newer hotels that will line the Tumon skyline.

“I’ve managed to already do two big ones and one has gone through the GLUC process. It’s going to open up 2 towers to the north, a $600 million hotel development that’s going to be Chamorro-centric. And then the other one is where all the people are camping out in the parking structure from the old Royal Palm hotel that fell in the 1993 earthquake, those are already on the drawing board,” Gutierrez said.

GVB is looking to give existing Tumon Hotels a facelift as well.

“And we’re trying to get the Verona upgraded and we’re going to do everything that we can to get people to start upgrading their structure. The Pacific Star is going to be upgraded to a major hotel name. The Fiesta is already the Crowne Plaza moving forward. Once you upgrade to that level, into the 5-star category, then we’re going to bring back Guam the way it was, where people are really thinking that Guam is a high-level tourism destination,” Gutierrez said.

Fine dining is also in the plans for Gutierrez as he tackles the challenges in the tourism industry amid COVID-19.

“We want to make Guam what it was. When I remember tourism at its height, I would find the best restaurants on this island. Now, there are only a few that you can call 5-star restaurants or 2 Michelin stars, it’s not there as I remember it,” Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez said the Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero confirmed with him that at the start of next month, Guam will welcome back tourists from Taiwan, Korea, and Japan, which essentially just means we’re lifting any mandatory 14-day quarantines for those travelers.

He said tourists won’t want to come, however, if they still have to quarantine when they return home.

Conversations are active to have a “reciprocity” between nations, a so-called tourist bubble, according to the interim GVB president, which would allow any visitor coming to Guam to forego quarantine when they return home.

A video is also being finalized by the GVB to promote Guam as a safe tourist destination in the three Asian countries as well.