GVB wants to launch vaccine tourism this weekend

(PNC file photo)

The Guam Visitors Bureau has waited long enough and wants to launch its vaccine tourism program by June 19.

Under GVB’s vaccine tourism program, Guam will be marketed as a “vaccination destination” for American expatriates living and working in the Asia-Pacific, with the island being one of only a few places in the region with enough FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccines.

GVB President Carl Gutierrez said that hotels on island are already set to offer special packages for vaccine tourism.

As for the market for vaccine tourism, Gutierrez said that even without a formal launch of the program, vaccine tourists are already coming to Guam on their own.

“The vaccine tourism is already a proven market and even with GVB not yet going full blast in marketing the program, a significant number of expatriates have already traveled to Guam on their own to get vaccinated,” the GVB president said during Friday’s Recovery Task Force meeting.

According to Gutierrez, Governor Lou Leon Guerrero already wants to start the ball rolling on the “Air V&V” program and in fact, wants the program launched this weekend.

The governor has already signed an executive order recognizing the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is the main vaccine used by South Korea and other tourism markets.

Final approval by the Department of Public Health and Social Services is the only remaining hurdle for the program to finally take off.

And Public Health’s Chima Mbakwem said he is already comfortable with the program and will just participate in a run-through with the Guam Hotel and Restaurant Association this afternoon on the hotel protocols for the vaccine tourism travelers. After this, Mbakwem said he expects to recommend the approval of the program to Public Health director Art San Agustin by the end of business Friday.

Mbakwem said among the minor points that need to be settled is whether the quarantine form that will be used for vaccine tourists will be the same form as that used for regular travelers.

But for the general protocol itself, Mbakwem said he is comfortable because the procedure ensures that there would be no contact with the general public.

Upon arrival at the airport, vaccine tourists will board special buses that will take them straight to their rooms, thus minimizing outside contact. Once they are inside their hotels, they will be serviced by hotel staff who have been fully vaccinated.

During the task force meeting, the members also discussed what would happen if a vaccine tourist tested positive.

If this happens, Mbakwem said contact tracing would be relatively easy because the vaccine tourists’ contacts are very minimal and only limited to the people in the bus with them and the hotel staff they have interacted with, who have all been vaccinated.

Those who test positive can either be isolated in their own rooms or taken into the GovGuam quarantine facility. But task force members said it may be better to just isolate the infected vaccine tourists inside their own hotel rooms to prevent further spread of the virus.

Gutierrez stressed that those coming for vaccine tourism would not get special treatment and would go through the same current existing protocols that other travelers go through. “Nobody will be coming in, not going through the same requirements and protocol as our people,” Gutierrez assured.

He added: “Vaccine tourists are required to have the same 72-hour COVID test requirement. When they arrive on Guam, they will go straight to their self-paid hotel approved by Public Health. They will be tested again when they arrive here and before they leave.”

The governor has also assured that whatever vaccine supply Guam has, the priority will always be the people of Guam. Vaccine tourists will only be accommodated if there are adequate supplies.