Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Future of tourism on Guam clouded

Future of tourism on Guam clouded

Thursday, 28 January 2010 04:47
by Tiffany Sukola | Variety News Staff

ALTHOUGH the outlook is sunny for the tourism industry this year, tourism experts say the good news won’t last long.

“The industry is stagnant,” said senior vice president of global marketing and market development for the DFS Group, Jim Beighley yesterday during a Guam Chamber of Commerce meeting. “Guam is at a crossroads.”

The tourism industry has moved on, he said. According to Beighley, the future of tourism is in giving visitors an authentic cultural experience.

Beighley, who has helped jumpstart the tourism industries in Okinawa and Hong Kong, said Guam needs to consider changing its image.

In Okinawa he said, the Japanese island focused only on catering to its military visitors. However, once tourism officials started to change its approach to visitors, the industry picked up.

The first tourism boom happened in Tumon, Beighley said, during a time tourists were primarily interested in shopping and dining.

However, today’s visitors to Guam want to immerse themselves in the rest of the island’s natural beauty and traditions.

“All of Guam should get engaged in tourism,” said Beighley, noting that the island’s most valuable resources are its people and culture.

Although Guam’s cultural assets are its most valuable, Beighley said that unfortunately they are also the most underfunded.

Although some island residents are opposed to the upcoming military buildup, Beighley said that the buildup can be used to jumpstart the island’s ailing industry.

“On an island with limited resources, we should take every opportunity to diversify the economy,” said Beighley.

Beighley added that concentrating entirely on tourism as the island’s main source of income could be detrimental in the long run.

“It’s kind of like putting all your eggs in one basket,” he said, explaining that Guam should take advantage of the opportunities that come with the military buildup rather than object to the plans.

“I’m in favor of the military buildup,” said Beighley. “I’m in favor of the chance to promote and expand the tourism industry.”

Beighley added that the military buildup and efforts to revive the island’s main industry should go hand in hand.

He also explained that there may be conflicts as buildup plans for both sectors are occurring simultaneously.

However, Beighley said that as long as island residents pay close attention to what the military does with some pieces of land, then buildup efforts can continue without much opposition.

Beighley said that residents should be critical of the military’s plans to limit public access to land that has cultural value as well as land that already has local businesses operating on it.

“It’s not about focusing on one or the other,” he said. “It’s about finding real solutions so that both parties win.”

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