Just a year ago travel and tourism was booming in the US Territory in the Western Pacific Ocean.
Guam Visitors Bureau (GVB) 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.
GVB, he said, has remained consistent with its concerns about the 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.
The economic slowdown in Guam was largely a result of private-sector job losses due to the pandemic, particularly in the tourism industry. When unemployment spiked in March, most of the job losses were temporary layoffs, but that is beginning to change.
Nine months after the COVID-19 pandemic tore a hole into the Guam economy, the once-promising economy is stalling, leaving thousands out of work and threatening to push thousands more — particularly women and immigrants — out of the labor force entirely.
The Guam Department of Labor reported the unemployment rate increased to 17.3% in June 2020, up from 4.6% the year before.
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.