GUAM TOURISM EXPERT PUSHES PERCEPTIONS

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By Samuel Shu

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Jan. 24) – Brown tree snakes, black sea cucumbers, impenetrable jungles, dirt roads and high crime rates in Guam. Guamanians may not have seen or thought about some of those things for a while, but they all are part of a lore tourists or migrants to the island may hear.

"Perception is often not the same as reality," said Fred Schumann, after his lecture to an audience gathered for the first of the Tourism Education Council's Annual Three-Part Forum Series yesterday at the Outrigger Guam Resort in Tumon.

Schumann recently returned from Japan where he spent the last several years pursuing a doctoral degree from the Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University in Asia-Pacific studies with a concentration in Asia-Pacific tourism.

But while perception may not be reality, it is important – especially in tourism. To change unwarranted perceptions, it takes a community effort, Schumann said. As with everything else in tourism, the efforts of the tourism industry alone are not enough.

"Tourism has three components, and they are equally important: one, host and host country; two, visitor; and three, visitor industry. It is enlightening," Juvee Atalig of the Guam Visitors Bureau said of Schumann's lecture. "He said that the focus should not be on the tourism industry alone. We should focus more on other aspects of the community. People are the deciding factor."

Joel Chabanne, Cartier operations manager, agreed with the assessment.

"If the destination as a whole cannot attract more tourists, one product can only go so far," he said.

Schumann focused on Japan – by far the largest source of tourists to Guam – in his lecture, "Changing Trends in Japanese Overseas Travel: How Will They Impact Destination Guam?"

Even though the heady days of the 1980s, when Japan had its economic bubble, may never return, Guam should look for other trends and opportunities, Schumann told his audience.

He mentioned the silver market, as the Japanese population is rapidly aging, and special-interest tourist groups, as Japanese tourists are becoming more independent and mature.

Looking into the future, Schumann urged his audience to take a "SWOT" approach, i.e., making a consorted effort to assess Guam's strengths and weaknesses and spot opportunities and trends.

In keeping to the theme of the lecture, the audience included tourism professionals, community leaders and legislators, said Heidi Ballendorf, executive director of Tourism Education Council.

Two more lectures are scheduled in the series. The next one will take place from 8 to 10 a.m. March 20 at the Sinajana Community Center. Ernie Galito of Guam Visitors Bureau (GVB) will present "GVB and the Numbers: How to Interpret Them for the Small/Medium Sized Business."

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