HAGÅTÑA (The Guam Daily Post) — Visitors Bureau officials on Thursday expressed more optimism about the early 2021 reopening of tourism that the Covid-19 pandemic upended, while also warning against nearly $579 million in projected tourism revenue losses because of the cannabis industry.

marijuana

"Cannabis is in the air," said GVB board chairman Sonny Ada.

GVB, he said, has remained consistent with its concerns about a cannabis industry's impact on tourism and Guam's image as a family-friendly destination.

At a GVB board meeting Thursday, officials provided details and statistics about the impact of recreational cannabis on tourism.

GVB vice president Gerry Perez said the "trade-off" between the Cannabis Control Board's assumed benefits of a cannabis industry to the Guam economy and the "negative impact to the tourism industry is a net economic loss of $486.2 million and 6,570 jobs lost."

Without the CCB's assumed benefits, he said, the loss to tourism could be $578.8 million, which reverses much of the investment put into the Guam tourism industry over the past 50 years.

Perez said even if GVB is 50% wrong in its net negative impact assessment, Guam would still be losing $243 million.

Losing tourists

In his presentation, Perez said Guam stands to lose about 35% of the Japan and Taiwan tourism markets and 40% of the Korean market with the onset of a recreational cannabis industry.

Guam will also lose 100% of the school trips from Japan, Korea and Taiwan, he said.

It will also lose "silver market," or senior citizen, travel from Japan and Taiwan by 50%, and Korea by 100%.

Guam will also lose 5% of the less-sensitive tourist age group — those from 25 to 49 years old, Perez added.

Both Perez and GVB board member Therese Arriola, also a member of the CCB, said GVB only "facilitated" an earlier economic impact report on an adult cannabis industry that the CCB commissioned. It's a CCB report, they said.

The required economic impact report, they said, quantified only the benefits of establishing a new industry and did not take into consideration its effects on tourism.

The study, conducted prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, projected some $133 million in annual cannabis sales once the industry is in full operation, among other things.

The Cannabis Control Board is currently reviewing all the public testimony received on the draft 133-page Guam cannabis industry rules and regulations.

Without adopted rules, it remains illegal to sell, buy or trade recreational marijuana on Guam.

Tourism officials said the Legislature will have the last say on the industry regulations, and GVB will continue to voice its opposition.

GVB and six other business groups seek a ban on the use, sale and purchase of cannabis in "family-friendly" Tumon, and are also opposed to advertising legal cannabis use to lure tourists to Guam.

'Bright spots'

GVB continues to prepare for the reopening of Guam tourism in early 2021.

Besides the possibility of federal pandemic relief ending, there are "bright spots" that provide more optimism for Guam.

Ada said these include the decline in Covid-19-positive cases and hospitalization rates along with the Covid Area Risk score recently falling below 2. Covid-19 vaccines are also "just around the corner," and quarantine restrictions are under review.

GVB president Carl Gutierrez said Guam is exploring the possibility of having a travel bubble with Taiwan, and that Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero is planning to lead a delegation to the Asian country in the early part of 2021.

"I think we're making headway with Taiwan," Gutierrez said.

Taiwanese low-cost carrier StarLux is looking at operating Taiwan-Guam flights, Gutierrez said, adding that at least two areas in Taiwan also want to establish a sister-city relationship with Guam.

Guam is also working on a paperless customs and visitor arrival forms process, with beta testing scheduled this month.

Perez, at the board meeting, also said GVB has revised its monthly arrival projections for the third and fourth quarters of fiscal year 2021 to an "optimistic" 12,304, from the current actual data of 8,054.

Arrivals for October and November, the first two months of fiscal 2021, showed a 98.6% drop from the same period last year.

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