Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Military Training a Boon For Guam

Posted on: Tuesday, August 7, 2007
Military training a boon for Guam
Honolulu Advertiser
Associated Press

HAGATNA, Guam — With fewer visitors coming this year, the island's business community has looked forward to this week's joint U.S. military exercises.

Gerald Perez, chairman of the Guam Chamber of Commerce Armed Forces Committee, said the exercises are expected to create an "economic surge across the island" when the sailors make port visits.

The average sailor spends $200 to $300 per day during a port visit, and the exercises, called "Valiant Shield," could bring up to 20,000 sailors to Guam, Perez said.

"Just do the math," he said. "If only half of those people spend a few days on Guam, we are talking about millions of dollars."

All told, Valiant Shield could send at least $4 million flowing into the economy of this U.S. territory. The expected infusion comes at a time when the island's main economic engine — the $1.2 billion tourism industry — is seeing fewer tourists and lackluster visitor spending. More than 1 million tourists, mostly from Japan, visit Guam each year.

Perez explained that port visits are not only a boon for hotels, restaurants and bars. He noted that many sailors want to play golf or become certified to skin dive once they hit land.

"There are a lot more women on these boats than people realize, too. They make port and want to get their hair done or go to a spa," Perez said.

To maximize spending, the Chamber of Commerce has persuaded bus companies to schedule extra bus routes to military installations. Perez expected all local businesses to feel some effect from the port visits.

Naval Base Guam and Andersen Air Force Base will play a "support role" in Valiant Shield, said Lt. Donnell Evans, Naval Base Guam's public affairs officer.

So will Jan Z's Lounge.

Assistant manager Joe Pangelinan expects the visiting military personnel to swarm the restaurant and bar throughout the week.

"Basically, we will need to double up all of our preps — more lemons, more burgers, more staff, more of everything," he said. "But we'll be ready for them."

But some military will be doing more than eating, drinking and relaxing.

Dozens of servicemen and women have joined their Guam-stationed military counterparts and local civilians in donating their time, sweat and skills to a community effort to prepare, clean and fix Guam's more than 30 public schools.

With only a couple more weeks left before more than 30,000 public school students return to their classrooms, the volunteer work — including painting walls; cutting grass; and fixing doors, classroom fixtures and furniture — couldn't have come at a better time.

Guam, with a population of 170,000, is 3,700 miles southwest of Hawai'i.

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