Underground Airbnb industry likely includes certain tour agents and transportation services

GHRA President Mary Rhodes (PNC file photo)

The underground Airbnb industry on Guam is likely bigger than just the bed-n-breakfast establishments themselves according to the GHRA. In order for the underground industry to operate there needs to be tour agents, shuttle services and rental car companies involved in getting the tourists to these unlicensed Airbnb locations.

Guam – The Guam Hotel and Restaurant Association says they are concerned about tour agencies and transportation companies that may be involved in the underground Airbnb industry. “It’s not just about where they’re living or staying while they’re on Guam. It’s also transportation. It’s how did they get there? Some of our tourists are walking in the middle of certain areas with their luggages and they don’t know exactly where they’re at because they weren’t told in advance,” said GHRA President Mary Rhodes.

When PNC first launched its investigation into unlicensed unregulated Airbnb’s we found it difficult to figure out where exactly they were located. In fact, we had to message them and ask where exactly they were located. They appeared to be somewhat secretive about their exact location. When they replied to our inquiries they still did not give their exact address or location but instead told us to search for them on Google.

GHRA President Mary Rhodes says officials have been encountering this kind of lack of transparency at the airport. “That’s an item that was discovered through the arrival forms. A majority of them could not enter an address or the name of the establishment that they’re staying at,” said Rhodes adding, “When they enter they don’t even know where they’re staying at. They’re waiting for the agent to direct them.”

PNC asked, “Does this mean there could be tour agents and even tour companies that are involved in all of this?”  “Right. Certainly,” replied Rhodes.

PNC asked, “There’s obviously some tour companies and shuttle services at least that are taking them to these places?” “Yes, and that’s something that the Guam Visitors Bureau actually recognizes as far as the tour guide certification program. So, every tour guide needs to have a certification I.D. with them and all of those shuttle buses should have a government license to run as that type of service,” replied Rhodes adding, “It’s difficult when we have unlicensed businesses who are handling transient populations such as tourists. In case something happens there’s no way to identify them because they’re not documented.”

And this documentation process of listing down where each tourist is staying while on island is vital. “That ensures that we understand where exactly all of our tourists are so that we can get them safely sheltered within Guam [in the event of a disaster] but also safely back home to their homeland,” said Rhodes adding, “There’s a lot of regulations out there. Again, it’s about enforcement and ensuring that everybody is safe when they do come to Guam because all it takes is one type of situation or one case, where something has happened with one of our visitors and it’ll quickly spread throughout not just within that nation but with other nations whether or not we have an issue. And so that’s why we need the government of Guam to look at this in full detail not just at the surface because again its affecting our taxes its affecting safety. It’s down to the agents are they certified? Do they have tour guide certification? Are those buses licensed to transport multiple people? So, there are a lot of ways to go about this and I just rather take the whole approach to ensure that we really address it once and for all.”

The Guam Hotel and Restaurant Association says they would like to see the Airbnb industry develop on Guam the proper way to ensure the safety of the island’s tourists.