GUAM, CNMI BEG FOR PIECE OF U.S. TOURISM RECOVERY PIE

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HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, April 29) - Uncle Sam, we
need money help to revive tourism.

Officials of the beleaguered economies of Guam and the Northern
Marianas made the plea in many variations yesterday at a meeting on Guam with
federal officials who can take the message to Washington, D.C.

Local government and business officials described bleak
snapshots of the Guam and Saipan economies at the meeting attended by Douglas
Baker, deputy assistant secretary with the U.S. Department of Commerce; and
Ramona Jones, a Department of the Interior special adviser for economic policy
for the insular areas.

The federal agency has set aside $50 million to divide among
U.S. states and territories.

Some indicators of economic decline on Guam mentioned at the
meeting:

 Retailer DFS' Guam and Saipan operations saw sales
decline 40 to 45 percent, which led to a 30 to 35 percent payroll reduction
after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, according to Joseph Camacho, DFS
mid-Pacific division managing director who also sits on the Guam Visitors Bureau
board;

DFS' job cuts alone accounted for 5 percent of employment losses
in Guam's economy, according to Camacho;

? Pacific Islands Club, Guam's largest hotel with more than 700
rooms, saw full-time employees decline by more than half to 250 now compared to
pre-Sept. 11 employment numbers, according to PIC General Manager Bartley
Jackson, who also is on the GVB board; and

 Falling tourist numbers have discouraged U.S.
brand-name retailers from entering the Guam market even with the success here of
such American businesses as Kmart and KB Toys, said Vic Lo, a GVB board member
and manager of the corporate owner of the Micronesia Mall.

He said work hours at some business tenants of the mall have
declined to as few as 20 hours per week.

''Your help to Guam will be very, very welcome,'' Lo said.

After the Sept. 11 terror attacks, tourism recovery efforts on
Guam were set back by two devastating typhoons last year and this year's travel
slump. Travel declined with the war in Iraq followed by fears over severe acute
respiratory syndrome, or SARS.

''Planes are empty, ... people aren't spending money,'' Jackson
said.

GVB General Manager Alberto A.C. Lamorena said fear of SARS has
become the most challenging problem for the visitors bureau after the easing of
wartime-related travel.

Guam has not had a confirmed case of SARS.

But Lamorena said in Japan, where most of Guam's tourists come
from, people have curtailed even domestic travel because of the fear of SARS.

Northern Marianas representatives to the meeting pressed for
federal financial assistance to boost tourism because garment manufacturing --
the second pillar of its economy -- is expected to start folding next year.

Saipan factories are expected to leave the Northern Marianas
capital island starting next year when the North American Free Trade Agreement
is expected to send Saipan manufacturers packing to Mexico or succumbing to
competition there.

Marianas Visitors Bureau Chairman Dave Sablan said half of
Saipan's 22 garment manufacturers will leave after NAFTA kicks in, wiping out
about 7,000 jobs or nearly the same number of all tourism-related jobs in Saipan.

Most of Saipan's garment industry workers are non-residents from
China, so NAFTA's negative impact to the Northern Marianas' economy will be felt
in terms of the loss of a significant revenue stream beginning in 2004,
according to Saipan Chamber of Commerce official Jay Jones.

''At that point, we will totally become fully dependent on the
tourism industry,'' he said.

Baker, whose office is taking the lead in administering a $50
million program to revive tourism across America, advised Guam and Saipan
officials to take a unified position when they formally ask for a share of that
funding.

''What will be important for Guam and the Northern Marianas is
to come to the table together and unify,'' according to Baker.

He said the islands get a better chance of being heard when
they're unified.

Baker said while he's aware of the dire economic conditions on
Guam and in the Northern Marianas, he expects to hear similar stories from state
governments and territories that will vie for the same federal tourism dollars.

Lamorena said the Guam Visitors Bureau and the Marianas Visitors
Authority will need to work out the details of their cooperation in asking for
federal grants for tourism.

Guam is making its case for more federal dollars for tourism by
mentioning the island's importance to the U.S. military presence in the
Asia-Pacific region.

Jim Adkins, chairman of the Guam Chamber of Commerce board, said
the U.S. naval base on Guam is home to fast-attack nuclear submarines and is
trying to get an aircraft carrier homeported here about three years from now.

The island also is home to Andersen Air Force Base, where two
dozen bomber aircraft were recently forward-deployed as a strategic defense in
light of North Korea's increasing nuclear-arms chatter.

Adkins also mentioned the importance of an uninhabited Northern
Marianas island, Farallon de Medinilla, as a U.S. military bombing range.

In seeking federal assistance, Ramona Jones said an argument can
be made in Washington, D.C., that the islands have strategic military benefit to
the nation's security.

April 29, 2003

Pacific Daily News: www.guampdn.com

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