LITTLE GLITTER IN GUAM’S "GOLDEN WEEK"

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HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, April 30) - Japan's Golden
Week holidays kicked off yesterday, but it's not expected to translate into
golden opportunities for Guam tourism businesses this time around.

''It's not going to be golden this year with bookings projected
to be very low,'' said Monte Mesa, chairman of the Guam Visitors Bureau's Japan
Marketing Committee and general manager of Guam Premier Outlets.

Guam's share of Japanese visitors during the Golden Week travel
season is projected to drop as steeply as 50 percent below last year's figures,
in part because fears of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, have
prompted many Japanese to spend vacations within their country, according to
Mesa.

''Golden Week now is not what is used to be,'' he added.

Golden Week officially began with Greenery Day yesterday, which
commemorates the late Emperor Hirohito's birthday, and ends within a week on May
5, Children's Day, according to wire reports.

JTB Corp., Japan's biggest travel agency, has estimated that the
number of Japanese going overseas will drop nearly 36 percent from last year to
around 314,000 -- the biggest decline since JTB began its annual spring tourism
forecasts in 1969, according to The Associated Press.

The JTB survey said that along with fears about SARS, travelers
are avoiding the United States because of concerns it could be a target of
terrorism in the aftermath of the war in Iraq, the wire report states.

JTB's Hawaii-bound traveler numbers are running about 60 percent
of last year's, according to The Honolulu Advertiser.

Guam's reduced share of Japanese visitors, even during Golden
Week, highlights a continuing slide of Guam's share of tourists from Japan.

Last year, Guam saw Japanese visitor arrivals during Golden Week
tumble 32 percent, from 33,542 to 22,818 visitors, according to Pacific Daily
News files.

The visitors bureau at the time attributed the decline to
lingering travel worries in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks
and the troubled Japanese economy.

SARS is a major reason Japanese travelers are reluctant to
travel overseas this Golden Week, said Toshie Ito, owner of a Guam business that
provides job skills and language training to businesses that serve Japanese
customers.

Would-be, first-time overseas travelers are especially reluctant
to go ahead with plans for overseas vacations, and that's in part because when
they seek advice from their travel agents, the agents exercise caution by
recommending domestic travels instead, Ito said.

A lack of information about SARS and other worries about travel
to Guam is helping cause Japanese tourists to stay closer to home, she said.

She suggested that Guam establish a not-for-profit Web site or
network of Web sites that can answer questions from Japan's traveling public.

Japanese consumers are increasingly turning to the Internet for
information, and they tend to trust Web sites that are not advertisement-driven
and are tailored to respond to specific questions, she said.

April 30, 2003

Pacific Daily News: www.guampdn.com 

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