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By Gaynor Dumat-ol Daleno

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (December 29, 2001 – Pacific Daily News)---Guam's tourist numbers plunged 46 percent last month, weighed down primarily by a continued steep drop in arrivals from Japan, where the country's economic woes and fears of overseas travel linger.

The decline means 48,704 fewer tourists visited last month compared with the 105,352 visitors in November last year, according to Guam Visitors Bureau statistics.

GVB has stated it spent $1.4 million on publicity in Japan in early October, but Japanese tourist arrivals slid 55 percent, from 85,265 to 38,090 in November. Visitor arrivals from Japan dropped 56 percent in October.

An August 2001 visitors bureau survey showed Japanese tourists each spent an average of $609 on Guam, so 47,175 fewer Japanese tourists in one month can be translated into about $28 million that didn't go into the island's economy.

The publicity campaign was part of the visitors bureau's $1.6 million post-Sept. 11 tourism recovery efforts in Japan, which also included a trip by Guam government and business leaders to eight Japanese cities.

The gist of their campaign was to reassure the Japanese tourist market that Guam remains a safe destination despite the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on America.

A Guam print advertisement in Japan newspapers stated, when translated from Japanese: ''Waiting for you to come. Guam is, of course, as usual.'' The ad included pictures of some Guam tourist attractions.

GVB General Manager James Nelson said the decline in tourist arrivals could have been worse if the visitors bureau did not launch marketing campaigns after Sept. 11.

He said the visitors bureau did a pretty good job of averting further losses in visitor arrivals given the psychological effect in Japan of almost two weeks of TV images showing hijacked commercial jetliners slamming into the World Trade Center.

Japan's weakened economy is also a major reason for the decline in Japanese tourist arrivals, Nelson said.

Just in the past few days, the yen has weakened to a three-year low against the U.S. dollar.

The weakened yen has a kind of double-edged-sword effect on Guam's tourism, Nelson said.

A weakened yen means Japanese tourists have less purchasing power on Guam. But GVB's marketing money will stretch further in Japan because of a weakened yen, Nelson said.

Japanese tourist arrivals for December are expected to be off by a mid- to high 40 percent, Nelson said.

He said the visitors bureau has about $5 million in marketing money left for the remainder of this fiscal year, which ends in September.

GVB could use more marketing money, but Nelson said the visitors bureau also recognizes that reduced visitor arrivals mean less taxes going to the government of Guam's coffers.

Hotel room occupancy taxes paid to GovGuam dropped 46 percent to $562,079 last month from November last year, according to the Guam Hotel and Restaurant Association.

Average hotel occupancy was at 36 percent last month, or a 27 percent decline from November 2000, GHRA numbers show.

For additional reports from the Pacific Daily News, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Pacific Daily News (Guam).

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