Thursday, October 30, 2008

Guam tourism is not facing a crisis

The recent story in the Pacific Daily News about layoffs at DFS is not good news, obviously, but the story suggests this decline in tourism underpinning the layoffs will be longterm. Pessimism always seems the greatest at the onset of a problem, but I don’t think this conclusion is warranted.  

The economic downturn will pass, especially on Guam which will get a big stimulus from the military build-up. Even if Japanese tourism is declining as that population ages, I suspect there’s a lot of untapped interest in Guam.

When I first came to Guam in the mid-1970s, visitors from Japan were the mainstay of Guam’s tourism economy. There were Korean tourists, but not as many as I saw in subsequent visits years later.

Japan is one of the world’s largest economies with a high standard of living and Guam is a relatively short flight. As the Korean economy picked up, more people from that country discovered Guam as a vacation destination.

Present problems aside, the economies in the rest of Asia are expanding and I believe Guam’s potential to draw more vacationers from China, Philippines and elsewhere will only increase.

What’s Guam’s strategy for expanding its ability to draw tourists from other places in Asia?

The big issue is gambling. The DSF layoffs may help convince people to approve a plan to legalize gambling at Guam Greyhound Park, essentially turning it into a giant casino. That will boost tourism and create jobs, no question, but it will also fundamentally change the island by introducing many new ills and problems. It’s amazing how quickly you can loose so much. Little good comes from gambling.

The Japanese tourists have been coming to Guam for decades for its beauty, not gambling. That hasn’t changed. Gambling may increase tourism but it will extract a heavy price as well.

But the person who said it best, was Gov. Felix Camacho. He  is urging voters to vote “no” on this plan. Excerpts from the PDN report:

“I believe with all my heart that this measure, if allowed to pass, will bring nothing but devastation and destruction to our great island, our close-knit community and, most importantly, to our families and future generations,” Camacho said. “Make no mistake about it. Casino gambling will strip our people of the core values of commitment to faith and, to family. Children will be hurt, marriages ruined, homes lost. Our people will be torn apart.”

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Guam: Paradise Found


Barron's, the financial news publication, has included Guam on a short-list of great places to live, especially in terms of the cost of housing.
Here's the story kicker: 
Retirement: Bulletproof Your Portfolio -- U.S. territories like Guam and American Samoa may not be high on your list of retirement havens, but they're well worth a look. Finding oceanfront bargains.
Although the story is aimed at people who want to retire, I also believe that Guam, Micronesia and points in Pacific, can be attractive to knowledge workers, people who can work independent of any office. 
As the article points out: 
Guam is also much cheaper than Hawaii, and not as isolated as you might think. Though it is seven hours from Hawaii, good short-haul airlines make it easy to reach Japan, the Philippines or China. The big worry in Guam is weather; the island sits in the western Pacific's typhoon zone. In the past decade, it's been hit by two super-typhoons.
Yes, the typhoons can interrupt work but they are relatively rare and the island is usually quick to recover. But the more important is Guam's proximity to Asian countries, which, in my mind, can make it very attractive to U.S. workers who want to be in relatively close range of Asian time zones.

As a counterpoint to the Barron's article, read
Brad Boydston's thoughts on the idea of retiring on Guam. He loves the island, but as a place for retirement?

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Guam primary

The New York Times calls the Guam Democratic primary on May 3rd., the island's "moment in the sun." (Subscription required) This may be true but will it matter?

The NYT reports:

With four delegates up for grabs in caucuses on May 3, Guam is a player in the Democratic primaries for the first time. Though island residents cannot vote in the general election, they can help choose a presidential nominee. In fact, Guamanians need not be registered voters to participate.

This strikes me as a huge opportunity for Guam to draw attention to its political status as well as push Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama for changes. The candidates can't campaign for support without responding to local concerns.

Today, Guam is represented in Congress by a non-voting delegate. It is marginalized politically because it has no political power. The Democrat primary is an opportunity for the people of this island to tell the country what Guam is about.

***
Note:

Guam is some 14 hours ahead of the East Coast. Which means when it is Saturday, May 3rd at 7 p.m. on Gaum, it will be 5 a.m. on Saturday, May 3rd in Washington. See: Guam Time Converter

Friday, February 8, 2008

Guam and Camping

Among the best memories I have of growing up were the camping trips I took with my parents. We went to Hapgood, part of the Green Mountain National Forest in Peru, Vermont.

It was small campground, perhaps 20 sites as I remember it, a pond and wonderful trails. Camping was a major part of growing up, so it was with some surprise to read that attendance at national parks is in decline.

Reuters: Americans spend less time on nature activities: study.

Excerpt: "The average person in America used to go to the national parks every year. It was the iconic American family vacation.

Now, there are less people doing that," said Patricia Zaradic, a biologist with the Environmental Leadership Program, Delaware Valley, in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.

Here’s an abstract of it at the National Academy of Sciences. After 50 years of steady increase, per capita visits to U.S. National Parks have declined since 1987.

Where do parents take their children today?

Guam has a seamless connection with the outdoors. I lived outdoors, especially when I lived in a house on the island’s south side. The beach, snorkeling, boonie stomping were very important. But I never camped on Guam. Is camping a real option? I couldn’t find any campgrounds via an Internet search but there must be some.