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By Gaynor Dumat-ol Daleno

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, May 18) – Guam's share of Japanese and South Korean tourists is declining again, and that's a concern for the thousands of people whose jobs or businesses are tied to the industry.

"I am very concerned about it," said Sen. Tony Unpingco, chairman of the legislative committee that has oversight over tourism industry.

Unpingco said the Guam Visitors Bureau is addressing the problem with a host of efforts, including making it easier for tourists to make online arrangements for accommodations and other aspects of their Guam trip.

The visitors bureau also has shifted focus from volume-oriented marketing efforts to a strategy geared toward higher-spending visitors, the senator said.

Japanese consumers still travel overseas in large numbers; the 1.57 million overseas Japanese travelers in March was the country's third-highest March total, according to the visitors bureau.

But the bureau acknowledged in its latest monthly report that Guam's share of Japanese tourists has been "sluggish."

This year through April, the number of Japanese tourists who chose Guam for vacations slipped 4.7 percent to 324,655 compared to the same first four months last year, according to the visitors bureau preliminary statistics.

And this month through the 13th, arrivals from Japan dropped a steep 14 percent, to 28,243, compared to the same period last year, according to GVB's air arrivals.

With Japanese tourists' average spending of $635 per person during their Guam stay, the drop in tourist numbers for 13 days this month alone represents almost $3 million in missed opportunities for Guam restaurants and shopping and sight-seeing establishments.

"The sluggish April-May booking levels are attributed to the fact that this year's Golden Week holiday season between late April through early May is split into two parts, ... rather than one long holiday period," according to the GVB March report.

More Japanese tourists are choosing to travel to China, according to the visitors bureau, citing a Japan Association of Travel Agents survey of June bookings.

Japanese travelers' June bookings for Guam and Saipan "are showing double-digit drops for the third straight month," according to the GVB, citing JATA's survey.

Japan is the source of almost 80 percent of the 1.2 million tourists who come to Guam each year.

The visitors bureau had hoped to welcome as many as 1.3 million tourists by year end and 1.5 million a year in about five years.

But the visitors bureau projections have fallen short, the senator said.

Guam's second-largest tourism market, South Korea, also showed a 24 percent drop in March air arrivals.

This year through April, South Korean tourist arrivals declined 0.7 percent, but during the first two weeks in May, travelers from South Korea further slipped a steep 35 percent, according to GVB statistics.

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