The island’s hotels are scrambling to offer special COVID vaccination travel and room packages after the governor announced her approval of the Guam Visitors Bureau’s vaccine tourism program.
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, during a news conference on Friday, said that hotels were “jumping over the hoops” to hurry up and prepare special packages for vaccine tourism.
Gutierrez pointed out that 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.
“I just got off the phone with some of them and they’re raring to go. They want travel and room packages and want GVB to submit them,” Gutierrez said.
He added that a lot of American expatriates are coming into Guam now, on their own. “And that’s not part of the ‘AirV&V’ packages. So they are housed at the GovGuam quarantine hotel and we want to end that,” Gutierrez said.
For her part, Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero said GVB has presented the expat vaccination program to her and she has already approved it.
“We’re just working out the details with the hotels and also packaging because GVB is trying to get the exact costs that may have to be expensed. It will be the responsibility of the people that are coming in to pay for their hotels. So the program has been approved, and the process and procedure have been approved. We’re just waiting for GVB to work out the packages with the hotels,” Leon Guerrero said.
Gutierrez said they plan to adopt the same public health protocols that were put in place by the government when the USS Roosevelt came to Guam to ensure that security is preserved and there would be no violations of the protocols. Only, instead of military personnel in the case of the USS Roosevelt, Gutierrez says GovGuam plans to use private security firms.
He added 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: “Vaccination 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. Then, on day two, they can get vaccinated.”
The governor 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.
Leon Guerrero said she has already been in touch with the White House with regard to increasing Guam’s COVID-19 vaccine allotments.
On the general tourism front, South Korea seems to be the market all set to resume tourism visits first.
Of Guam’s major tourism markets, Gutierrez said Korea has the fastest vaccination rate and its citizens are raring to travel overseas again.
The problem is that in Korea, 60 percent of the vaccinated people were immunized using the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is not yet recognized by the U.S. FDA.
However, the governor has made a special exemption for AstraZeneca given the importance of the Korean visitor market and GVB is just waiting on Public Health to release its amended guidelines.
During the news conference, Dr. Felix Cabrera, Public Health’s chief medical officer, said he has already completed the draft of the amended guidelines and is just waiting on some additional supporting documents.