GVB asks Public Health for help with COVID testing for tourists

Tourists at the Guam airport. GVB has asked Adelup for help in sustaining its PCR testing program for tourists. (PNC file photo)

The Guam Visitors Bureau is asking the Department of Public Health and Social Services to help with the bureau’s COVID testing for tourists program.

GVB’s testing program has a $1 million budget but with the current utilization rate of 79 tests per day, the bureau projects the depletion of the funding for the program by mid-December of this year.

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According to GVB vice president Gerry Perez, the bureau’s PCR testing for returning visitors is an important incentive in jumpstarting travel industry interest and consumer sales to Guam.

He said the PCR COVID testing is a significant competitive advantage for GVB as Guam’s rival destinations, including Vietnam (which is Guam’s number one rival in the Korean market) do not offer similar subsidized testing programs.

Perez said the importance of COVID testing as an incentive for tourists to come was corroborated by the recent familiarization tour for Korean travel companies. The visiting Korean travel officials said that the COVID testing offered to tourists was “a big deal” and an important come-on for tourists.

But with money for the testing running out, GVB has turned to Adelup and Public Health to help it continue the program, at least until March.

GVB officials have met with Acting Governor Josh Tenorio, DPHSS director Art San Agustin, Governor’s Chief of Staff Jon Calvo, and Adelup fiscal advisor Bertha Duenas.

GVB has asked for access to Public Health’s lab, which has a capacity of 1,000 COVID PCR tests per day.

The bureau has also asked for funding for its PCR test program and approval of the $50 per test local rate. Currently, it costs GVB $175 per test.

Under the agreement that GVB is asking for, the bureau will be responsible for providing the daily visitor testing forecast to properly schedule PCR testing and optimize throughput utilization.

According to Perez, both Adelup and DPHSS are agreeable to these terms of assistance and are preparing to concretize an assistance package soon.