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By Gerardo R. Partido

HAGATNA, Guam (Marianas Variety, July 15) – Guam has been attracting an increasing number of low-income tourists from Japan during the past five years, the Guam Visitors Bureau announced yesterday.

During the bureau’s board meeting, GVB general manager Gerry Perez said there has been a shift in the island’s Japanese visitor profile, with higher income Japanese declining and lower wage level Japanese visitors increasing.

According to GVB statistics, Japanese visitors with an annual income of over 10 million yen (or US$89,000) declined by 3 percent in 2005 compared to the total from 2000.

Those with annual income of over 7 million yen (or US$62,000) decreased even more, going down from 33 percent in 2000 to only 21 percent by 2005.

On the other hand, those with annual income of under 3 million yen (or US$26,000) increased by 7 percent from 2000 to 2005.

"Clearly, there is a real deterioration in the quality of our current visitors from Japan in terms of income levels," Perez said.

The increase in the number of lower income Japanese visitors has resulted in reduced revenues for the tourism industry as visitors spend less during their stay on island.

To make matters worse, Perez said Guam faces fierce competition in the budget trip category as other Asian destinations like Taiwan and Korea are perceived as cheaper and more appealing destinations that offer better shopping, food, and cultural attractions.

According to Perez, Guam needs to be repositioned beyond being a mere short-haul, low budget destination for the young.

To achieve this, Perez said Guam must spruce up its attractions, improve the "Guam product," upgrade visitor services, and target visitor segments with higher disposable incomes.

The bottom line, Perez concluded, is that Guam can still maintain steady visitor numbers despite its second-class image because of its proximity to Japan. But if the island’s tourism industry is to grow further, Perez said Guam must be able to attract and sustain new investments in its tourism industry.

July 15, 2005

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