GVB gives updates on COVID app, ‘touchless’ travel and special types of visitors

Guam Visitors Bureau (PNC graphic by Ricky De Guzman)

Tourism has long been the engine that drives Guam’s economy. Months into the pandemic, there’s no saying when the island’s numbers will approach those of its heyday. But Guam Visitors Bureau officials say they’re not taking this challenge lying down.

With tourism down, GVB has been doing what it can to improve the situation while also planning for the future.

According to GVB vice president Gerry Perez, the bureau’s most immediate concern is promoting the COVID-19 contact tracing app.

Perez says he is disappointed in the unexpectedly small number of downloads because there’s only been a download rate of about 20% to 22% and the island needs a critical mass of 50% to 60%.

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“The sooner we reach critical mass, the sooner we can get back to better tracking of the virus. And so the very people who are anxious about opening up the island ought to be the same people who really should be participating in this downloading,” Perez said.

Beyond contact tracing, Perez says GVB is also working on developing a touchless-style of travel, starting with digital customs and visitor arrival forms that people will be able to fill out on an app or at a kiosk.

The plan is to eventually add functionality that will allow travelers to access local incentives and benefits.

Although traditional travel numbers are down, Perez says there has been a steady trickle of visitors who come to Guam to take professional exams such as the test to become a Certified Public Accountant, which is administered at the Prometric Testing Center in Harmon

Another concept being explored is to develop Guam as a venue for alternative dispute resolution.

According to Perez, the advantage of such travelers is that disputes often take up to 12 months to be resolved and require small groups of people to take multiple business trips.

A somewhat extreme example is the dispute that arose from the partial collapse and ultimate demolition of the Royal Palm Resort in the ’90s.

That dispute took more than two years with the participants making four or five trips per year.

“That’s not a typical case that we would expect, but I’m just relating to you the principle behind organizing that market niche. Because it’s a higher-yielding visitor, it’s not a leisure visitor,” Perez said.

Although GVB is working hard coordinating with stakeholders and source market countries such as Japan, Korea and Taiwan, Perez says there is still no certainty as to when travel will resume in earnest.