GVB: ‘Overly restrictive’ public health policy hurting Guam tourism

Departing tourists at the Guam airport. (PNC file photo)

The Guam Visitors Bureau minced no words in describing the current Public Health policy towards island visitors as “too one-dimensional” and a “hindrance” to the recovery of Guam’s tourism industry.

GVB Vice President Gerry Perez said Guam is underperforming compared to its peer group of island destinations because the current public health protocol policy is an impediment to the pace of recovery.

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“The bottom line is we’re really in a situation where we need movement in the status quo. For quite some time now, the current public health policy is mandatory 14-day quarantine for anybody arriving, even with a negative PCR test and even with a vaccine. So that’s a really strategic hurdle that we need to try to overcome if we are to move forward with any increase in arrivals,” Perez said during GVB’s board meeting this afternoon.

According to Perez, GVB has already been getting some pushback from people about Guam’s low arrival numbers.

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“And that’s not really surprising. The reason people are kind of concerned about our low arrival number is because there’s already resurgent activity in Hawaii, in the Caribbean, and other island destinations. For example, the Canary Islands are at 53% of pre-pandemic levels already. And they have allowed this arrival of visitors because they’ve got vaccines and testing that have allowed lifting their travel restrictions. So it’s not like we’re trying to invent anything new here, I’m just sharing with you what other destinations are doing in order to really regenerate economic activity in the tourism front,” Perez said.

GVB believes the reason for Guam’s low arrival numbers is the overly restrictive policy in place right now. Perez said GVB really needs to work with the medical community to come up with a more balanced policy.

“We call it a risk proportionate policy on health safety and hygiene protocols, as it relates to our economic health in the community. Because it’s not just about medical health, it’s also about the economic health of the community. We need to balance these and not be too single dimension, too narrow-focused, where we’re really losing sight of other issues that we should be concerned with,” Perez said.

Perez believes that adopting a more practical risk proportionate policy would facilitate potentially a 30% to 40% increase from GVB’s current arrival estimates, possibly even stretching to 60%.

“To me, this is a risk management issue. It’s not being mutually exclusive. But it’s about being mutually inclusive and balancing both the medical and economic health of the community. And so, I don’t know exactly what this policy is gonna look like. But it’s a conversation I think that we should have with people to come up with a risk proportionate policy that can be helpful in terms of providing a positive impact in our efforts to recover,” Perez concluded.