GVB asks for 1,500 doses to pilot test COVID vaccine tourism plan

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Guam vaccination clinic (PNC file photo)

The Guam Visitors Bureau has asked Adelup for an initial allotment of 1,500 COVID-19 vaccines to test out its planned vaccine tourism and provide proof of concept.

Under the GVB plan, Guam will be marketed as a “vaccination destination” for American expatriates living and working in the Asia-Pacific because Guam is one of only a few places in the region with enough FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccines.

“This is an opportunity to not only provide humanitarian support while stimulating green shoots of economic recovery. In the face of delays due to persistent pandemic issues in our source markets, GVB has received many inquiries, over the last few months for vaccination for US citizens traveling from foreign countries in Asia,” GVB vice president Gerry Perez said during Thursday’s GVB membership meeting.

Perez said GVB has not really pushed the vaccine tourism concept hard during the past four months because the priority was getting the island’s local residents vaccinated.

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“But now that we’ve achieved the threshold of 50 percent and growing, I think it’s time that we can do something. We can at least start small with a proof of concept project and I believe President Carl has already sent a note to the governor, requesting an allocation of 1500 vaccines for us to test out this program,” Perez said.

Perez enumerated the benefits that vaccine tourism can have for Guam:

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= It would help jumpstart a tourism value chain that is in atrophy for more than a year because of the shutdown;

= It’ll expand current business activity at hotels and restaurants beyond just weekends, and it will help promote longer stays beyond just two weeks; and

= It’ll provide incremental revenue from non-government funding sources and the positive geopolitical image to Americans living in Asia, as well as just good optics for the island’s economic recovery.

“The main long-term benefit, of course, is that it would help scale up the financial viability of tourism-related businesses, ahead of a volume-driven business from Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. It will prime the pump so to speak,” Perez said.

If GVB is able to get the vaccines, test out vaccine tourism, and the proof of concept proves to be successful, Perez said it can go ahead and promote the project to its source markets and organize promotional and familiarization tours as well as other marketing initiatives.

Governor Lou Leon Guerrero has expressed cautious support for the GVB vaccine tourism plan.

“It’s something that is worth looking into more seriously,” Leon Guerrero said during the news conference announcing the delay in Guam’s reopening.

The governor said she will be making a call to Army General Gustave Perna, the chief operating officer for Operation Warp Speed, to see if he can give Guam additional vaccine supplies.

Ideally, GVB is hoping that American expatriates and their families can combine a vacation stay on Guam along with their vaccinations.

Although supportive of the GVB plan, the governor also expressed concern about possibly impacting the vaccine supply for Guam’s people.

“But if we can get extra supplies or added supplies to our volume of vaccination, I think that would be a great idea to pursue,” the governor said.

GVB has emphasized that the people of Guam are still the top priority when it comes to vaccine use and no local resident will be left out of vaccination under its proposed vaccine tourism program.

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