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HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, October 4) - The number of tourists visiting Guam increased by 34 percent during the fiscal year that just ended, according to preliminary figures released yesterday by the Guam Visitors Bureau.

As of the end of September, 1,153,406 people had visited Guam, compared to 855,955 during fiscal 2003, said Visitors Bureau General Manager Tony Lamorena. That figure does not include military arrivals or sea arrivals for the month of September because that information is not yet available.

The Visitors Bureau predicts as many as 1.3 million tourists will visit Guam during the coming fiscal year -- potentially tying the visitor arrival record set in 1997.

Lamorena yesterday said the increase is related to a rebound in travel from Japan, where the economy is improving, and where Guam is viewed as a safe, close tourist destination.

He also credited a marketing campaign that emphasizes Guam’s culture and nature.

"Definitely there has been a big difference," said Junior Saico, 26, a front desk host for the Outrigger Guam Resort. "You’ll see more tourists walking on the street, you’ll see more tourists in the lobby, more tourists looking for tours, which is a good thing."

Saico, who has worked in the tourism industry for two years, said the increase in tourism makes him feel more secure in his job and also about his prospects for growth within the industry.

He said the Outrigger has been hiring aggressively during the past couple of months.

"We’re seeing a lot of hiring within hotel properties and in visitor-industry-related businesses," Lamorena said. "With the decreased room occupancy, a lot of hotels last year laid off a substantial amount of their employees. Now that they’re getting better occupancy, they’re rehiring a lot of their old employees."

There have been more visitors during the past year, but tourist arrivals still are not consistent month-to-month, said John Ngiraibuuch, 30, a mechanic for Tumon Sports Club. The business rents motorized watercraft, paddleboats, beach chairs, umbrellas and other equipment to tourists on the sands of Tumon Bay.

Inconsistency in visitor arrivals means inconsistent work opportunities for employees, he said. "That’s when we start lowering down people’s time, and we cut the crew down, break it down, so everybody can still have their job and make some money," he said. "Job opportunities are up and down, but tourism is still not that good. In certain months, in one week there’s gonna be so much Japanese, and after that one week, that’s it. It’s not consistent, not like before," said the 12-year industry veteran.

October 5, 2004

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