Pacific Daily News

HAGATNA, Guam (July 25) – There has been a lot of discussion over the years regarding what Guam can do to diversify its tourism market. But one of the players in the island's visitor industry has done more than talk, it has actively pursued a different type of "tourist."

The LeoPalace Resort has invested millions of dollars to provide state-of-the-art sports facilities, from training venues to playing fields. That investment has been paying off. The Yomiuri Giants have conducted training sessions at the resort, as have the Japanese national soccer team. The Japanese national swim team has committed to train at LeoPalace before the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and resort officials are in discussions with the U.S. Olympic swim team as well.

Guam is only scratching the surface when it comes to sports tourism. Our island is an ideal place for teams -- both amateur and professional -- from the region to train. China and Japan, and other countries in the region, have something we don't -- winter. Our island offers year-round summer conditions. Teams from these cold countries can take advantage of our warmer weather by conducting conditioning and training sessions here during winter months.

We also need to take better advantage of our proximity to Asia. There are a number of major sporting competitions that take place in Asia at various times. The biggest is the upcoming 2008 Olympics in China. We need to start pursuing U.S. teams -- and teams from other countries in the Western Hemisphere -- and selling them on the advantages of coming to Guam in advance of the games, to get better acclimated to the time zone differences.

U.S. teams will feel especially at home here. There are no language barriers, the currency is the same and the presence of the U.S. military here means a higher level of security than any similar site in the region.

We need the Guam Visitors Bureau to take a strong approach to attracting more sports tourism. If it's not already, this needs to become part of GVB's strategic plan, along with finding someone who can serve as the agency's -- and thus Guam's -- point person in sports tourism.

July 25, 2005

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