Last updated: 12:00 PM ET, Mon November 30 2015

The Next Hawaii? Guam Set for Tourism Boom.

Destination & Tourism | Josh Lew | November 30, 2015

The Next Hawaii? Guam Set for Tourism Boom.

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

Guam’s economy has traditionally been based on two things: the U.S. military and Japanese tourists. The island, officially a U.S. territory, has struggled along with the Japanese economy in recent years. This has led to calls to diversify and to promote tourism from other countries. More travelers are coming from South Korea and China, and the island has taken some unusual and creative steps to attraction visitors from Taiwan.  

A renewed interest in tradition and culture

Guam is part of the region known as Micronesia. While tourists do come for the beaches and resorts, many want to see traditional culture when visiting this part of the Pacific. Destinations like Palau offer more of this kind of tourism (many purists see Guam as too modernized and Americanized).

There is actually a movement on Guam that is focused on bringing the island back to its roots. Outside of Tumon Bay, where most of the hotels and shopping venues are located, there is a revived interest in the local Chamorro language, which was fast disappearing until recently. If enough tourists are interested in the authentic side of the South Pacific, there may be a practical reason to continue this cultural revival. 

A rise in tourism numbers

At the same time, most people come here for a stereotypical tropical vacation, even if they do decide on a day trip or two to the less-developed southern part of the island. Guam averages about 1.3 million tourists per year, a number that is expected to rise for a few reasons. First of all, the island is marketing itself in places besides Japan. Also, the U.S. military will most likely have a larger presence in the region, which is strategically important for U.S. allies like Taiwan and the Philippines. With many tourists apprehensive about global travel in the wake of the recent terrorism attacks, Guam may seem like a safer bet because of its status as a U.S. territory.  

Hotels looking to get in on the ground floor

There are currently a number of variables working in Guam’s favor. It will be a long time before it becomes a “second Hawaii,” but the island is certainly looking towards a tourism boom of sorts. 

A rise in tourism numbers would mean the need for more hotels. Major brands are looking to get in on the ground floor, so to speak, by opening new properties on Guam. One of the biggest recently hospitality-related announcements came from Wyndham. The global brand bought out the Aqua Suites Hotel and has transformed it into a 144-room, all-suite Wyndham Garden Guam. The property includes outdoor dining and barbecue facilities as well as a full service spa. 

In the press release announcing the hotel, Wyndham’s Regional Managing Director, Barry Robinson, explained the hotel industry’s new interest in Guam: ““This growth, coupled with a lack of hotel supply, gives us a timely opportunity to introduce our vast portfolio of brands… to serve the lodging needs.” 

A creative way to get press coverage of Guam

The number of Taiwanese visitors has been growing. One of the most unique ways that the island has earned press coverage is by hosting a marathon that is run at night. To avoid hot South Pacific days, the race starts at 3 a.m. Not only does it draw competitors from Guam’s new target markets in Korea and Taiwan, but it also gets media coverage in these countries because of the novelty factor. 

As Guam’s tourism industry grows, it is trying to balance hotel development with a revitalization of traditional Chamorro culture. It is probably too early to start calling the territory "the next Hawaii," but things are certainly looking good for tourism on Guam. 


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