HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Dec. 12) - The island's tourism industry is understandably upbeat about recent Guam Visitors Bureau figures, which show some increases in the number of Japanese visitors to Guam.

December figures thus far show a 21-percent increase over the same time last year, but let's remember that the island had been hit by a supertyphoon that month. It's certainly too early to make for a trend, though January's numbers should also be higher next year compared to this year, again because they will be typhoon-related.

In the case of the visitor industry, the driving force of our economy, it's important that we aren't overly optimistic. What's needed is guarded optimism, tempered with actions to help make our hopes for a rebound a reality.

First of all, we need significant improvement in our "product" - we have to be able to deliver that little tropical island paradise that we sell to our visitors.

Nasty, smelly public restrooms in parks, dilapidated buildings, stripped-down junk cars along roadsides, litter-strewn parks and graffiti-tagged walls send the opposite message of the one we want to give. We need to clean up the mess, ensure public toilets are kept clean and maintained, and tear down the eyesores. We need regular maintenance at public parks and attractions, ensuring the grass is cut regularly and that faded or graffiti-covered walls are repainted.

We also need to ensure that the money to market Guam tourism is spent judiciously, targeted to benefit the visitor industry as a whole.

And, our elected officials must put an end to their political games and brinksmanship, because it is detrimental to accomplishing the day-to-day workings of government and it does nothing good for the long-term good of our community. They must rise above the pettiness and remember that they chose to become public servants, which means their top priorities must be in the best interests of the people as a whole.

There can be no option here.

December 12, 2003

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