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HAGATNA, Guam (December 16, 1998 - Marianas Variety)---High-ranking officials from the Government of Guam and the island’s tourism industry will be traveling to Houston and Tokyo to lobby Continental Micronesia and Japanese airlines for increased seat capacity for Guam.

The delegation, which will leave on Jan. 18, is led by Gov. Carl T.C. Gutierrez and includes Sen. Antonio Lamorena V, Office of the Governor Special Assistant Clifford Guzman, DFS Guam President Gerald Perez, Vision 2001 Tourism Task Force Chairman Bruce Kloppenburg, and Guam International Airport Authority Executive Manager Gerald Yingling.

The Guam Visitors Bureau (GVB) has already approved $15,000 from its Trade/VIP Account to finance the trips including airfare and accommodations.

"As everybody knows, the most critical problem we have now is seat capacity and several people have been working together to put up a seat incentive program to be discussed with heads of airlines in Japan and Continental Micronesia in Houston," DFS Guam President Gerald Perez said.

According to Perez, the 1.2 million annual seat capacity now in place for Guam will simply not deliver "at historical load factors" the number of visitors GVB needs to avoid a 28 percent drop in arrivals.

"This could mean 245,000 fewer Japanese visitors from 1998 final estimates, hotel occupancies of only 40 to 50 percent, and lost business revenues in excess of $250 million."

Perez said it is necessary to work on a community-based stimulus package to increase the frequency and capacity of air service from Japan because this market now comprises over 86 percent of Guam’s total visitor arrivals.

Due to the continuing decrease in Japanese traffic, Continental Micronesia has already announced that it will be reducing flight frequencies and using smaller aircraft with the airline’s 1999 scheduled seats declining by about 23 percent mostly in the Japanese market.

Gutierrez has ordered the Multi-Agency Asian Economic Crisis Response Group to launch a major initiative aimed at making the Guam airport more attractive to airlines servicing Guam, including making airport rates more affordable.

Last October, Gutierrez reduced the cost per enplaned passenger from $15.74 to $13.03. If airlines servicing Guam increase their passenger loads by 15 percent and develop supplemental income, Gutierrez said GovGuam would be willing to cut cost per enplaned passenger to as low as $10.

Continental Micronesia complained earlier that the new Guam international airport costs the airline an additional $19 million per year.

During a meeting with Gutierrez, Continental Micronesia President Bill Meehan said his company is willing to do what it can to increase airline seats for Guam but cautioned GovGuam not to expect results overnight.

For additional reports from the Marianas Variety, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Marianas Variety.

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