GVB asks Legislature for ‘immediate funding’ to support recovery of tourism industry

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Guam Visitors Bureau President and CEO Pilar Laguana has sent a letter to Speaker Tina Muna Barnes appealing for “immediate funding” to support the recovery of Guam’s tourism industry.

The GVB is funded by the Tourist Attraction Fund. Laguana noted that of the roughly $44 million collected by that fund, GVB receives $22 million annually.

However, “since visitor arrivals are almost zero, and most hotels are closed, we anticipate the TAF will not generate even 50% of what it usually does,” wrote Laguana in her letter to the Speaker.

Laguana goes on to ask for the Speaker’s “support and guidance” on how to secure funding for the bureau — through the CARES Act or grants/sub-awards – or from any available source.”

“GVB is Guam’s number one economic driver,” notes Laguana “and it is imperative that we be considered to receive funding to assist Guam’s economy to recover back to full capacity.”

READ GVB President Laguana’s letter to the Speaker in FULL below:

Re: GRANT ASSISTANCE FOR GUAM VISITORS BUREAU

Håfa Adai Madam Speaker,

As the Guam Visitors Bureau prepares to support Governor Lou Leon Guerrero’s plan for reopening the island, we reach out to seek your guidance and support.

We ask for your assistance in helping us to secure funding, grants, or subgrants that we can use to support the operations, projects, and plans for recovery in the tourism industry.

With tourism’s recovery period slated for well over a year, we are finding ourselves in a position that requires immediate funding to help jumpstart pertinent programs to support the prerecovery efforts. These efforts will prepare the local industry for reopening and will fund initiatives in our source markets to generate business for Guam. 

Our comprehensive source of funding comes from the TAF (Tourist Attraction Fund), which generally brings in 44 million dollars annually. TAF funds are generated by visitors who pay an 11% hotel occupancy tax. Out of the 44 million dollars, GVB receives $22 million annually. Since visitor arrivals are almost zero, and most hotels are closed, we anticipate the TAF will not
generate even 50% of what it usually does. The reality is, we have planned our budget for the remainder of the year without TAF support. 

The monthly allotment that GVB receives from DOA has been reduced by 50% of what we usually collect, and future months remain uncertain. We have made drastic cuts and immediate adjustments to our local and overseas contracts to ensure we operate within our means. 

Additionally, our FEMA applications remain pending due to the Tax ID issue. Our team reached out for assistance from the representative on the grant’s portal. We hope that this grant will enable us to offset some financial costs brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. Applying for the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program or Economic Injury Disaster Loan will not be fitting for GVB because of our status as a Non-Profit, Non-Stock Public Corporation, and funding source. 

Attached below is the TAF Tracking Report that demonstrates from October last year to where  it is today with the COVID-19 impact. GVB significantly reduced our budget in reaction to the anticipated drop in TAF collections.

Madam Speaker, we would like to ask for your support and guidance on how to secure funding for the bureau — through the CARES Act or grants/sub-awards – or from any available source. 

GVB is Guam’s number one economic driver, and it is imperative that we be considered to receive funding to assist Guam’s economy to recover back to full capacity. 

Thank you for offering your assistance, and it is with high hopes that your efforts are successful. 

Very Respectfully,
Pilar Laguana
President & CEO

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