Military spending helping prop up Guam’s hotel industry

The island's hotels are preparing for a new market --- vaccination tourism (PNC file photo)

Military spending is helping support Guam’s hotel industry which has been suffering since the COVID-19 pandemic drove tourists out of the island.

Guam Hotel and Restaurant Association President Mary Rhodes confirmed that the large scale military exercise scheduled around Guam waters called “Exercise Sea Dragon” is boosting the hotel industry as military personnel connected with the exercise book rooms from the various hotels on island.

Rhodes assured that the hotels have strict COVID-19 health and safety protocols in place and that the military personnel themselves are under “restriction of movement” or ROM orders.

“Operation Sea Dragon is similar to the Vigilant Guard exercise where they will have a restriction of movement and they’ll only be allowed to and from the hotel, and work. So the military is not preventing their personnel from going to the hotels but they have certain things that they have to adhere to as part of that restriction of movement,” Rhodes said during Tuesday’s Rotary Club meeting presided over by president Jason Misashita.

Exercise Sea Dragon 2021 is an annual multinational exercise that hosts military participants from Australia, Canada, India, Japan, and deployed U.S. Navy aircraft squadrons in the vicinity of Guam.

Military precautions

According to Joint Region Marianas, all exercise participants are carefully adhering to a number of COVID-19 mitigation measures to protect Guam’s civilian and military communities.

Prior to arrival in Guam, all participants are required to enter a 14-day restriction of movement sequester (ROM-S) in their home country in order to insulate and protect themselves from potential infection within their country. Prior to exiting ROM-S and at most 72 hours before their travel to Guam, participants must receive a negative COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test result before traveling.

According to JRM, service members arriving in Guam in support of Sea Dragon 2021 are scheduled to temporarily reside in off-base hotels for the duration of the exercise.

Upon arrival, exercise participants will be placed into a Supplemental ROM status for 14 additional days. This Supplemental ROM will only allow participants to travel to and from their on-base workplace and their off-base lodging, as well as restricted movements once on base.

In addition, off-base activities are prohibited for all exercise participants to further prevent the spread of COVID-19. This restriction will be strictly enforced and is for the health and safety of both the local community as well as the service members involved in the exercise.

Moreover, JRM says all Government of Guam Pandemic Condition of Readiness and executive order guidelines and military public health orders apply and any service member suspected to be in violation will be investigated and held accountable, if appropriate.

Permanent military, DoD residents in Guam hotels

Regardless of any military exercises, GHRA’s Rhodes said there are about 3000 military and federal government personnel that are permanently staying in Guam’s hotels at any given point in time.

“They could be here because they’re on Permanent Change of Status (PCS) orders and they moved to Guam. Or they’re working on Guam temporary assignment. So we have about 3000 minimum number of military personnel staying in our hotels. And that’s really what has allowed all the hotels to remain open and continue to operate,” she said.

According to Rhodes, there are 16 hotels that are contracted with the military to provide services for active-duty personnel. She said there are also other types of military stays such as those on Department of Defense business.

“Outside of active military, there are contractors and other DoD personnel that are staying in hotels,” Rhodes said.