The Port Authority of Guam, along with the Guam Visitors Bureau, is working to position Guam as the home port for a regional cruise line that’s expected to launch within three years.
After Port board Chairman Monte Mesa’s recent trip to Miami, to study the cruise line industry’s trends, he said Guam, and Micronesia as a whole, definitely have the scope in developing a regional cruise line.
“There have been some industry surveys that have been conducted by the cruise line industry, … (and) 36 percent of the cruisers are repeater market and they’re looking at … a mix of exotic destinations that offer authentic cultural experiences,” Mesa said. “Hopefully that Magnificent Micronesia experience will fulfill this because currently (we’re) attracting the major cruise lines to stop on Guam as part of their Trans-Pacific tours or their worldwide tours. And Guam is a natural stop between Asia to Australia or Hawaii to down under.”
Guam Vistors Bureau Deputy General Manager Ernie Galito said these cruise ships are en route to a specific destination or group of specific destinations. The passengers from the nine cruise ships that stopped on Guam during fiscal 2009 picked up passengers at a specific port of embarkation and dropped off passengers at other specific ports of disembarkation, Galito said.
The new Micronesian cruise line, however, would be home-ported on Guam, taking off from Guam to other Micronesian islands, according to Mesa. Tourists would fly to Guam from Asia, Australia or Europe. According to GVB, the goal is to have cruise vessels of passenger capacity less than 300 to sail between Guam and the other islands.
“It would be ideal to have two vessels in the inventory: one to sail from Guam to the Western Caroline Islands and one to sail between Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands,” Galito said, and as more baby boomer consumers retire in Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea, and Australia, a niche market opportunity for Guam will be created for marketing its fly-in and sail-back travel packages, he added.
“If Guam were to become either a port of embarkation or disembarkation, passengers could fly in from, say, Tokyo and then sail back to Japan aboard the cruise ship,” Galito said. “Guam could develop both fly-in and fly-out travel packages. It will take approximately three days to sail to a destination that would take three hours to reach by airplane.”
It’s a model that’s been very effective in other island nations in terms of making one destination a cruise hub where the people fly in to cruise the region, Mesa said. Guam is perfectly situated for being the hub, as it has the air capacity to allow people to fly in from international destinations, he said.
“Palau has some consistency in entertaining tourists. CNMI also has a good platform already so we just need to refine it. And then we just need to work with the FSM to get them to be able to present a consistent island experience, (a) cultural experience that’s of course unique to each of the individual islands,” Mesa said.
And Guam’s already working to play up its uniqueness while adhering to the regional branding, according to GVB.
The Guam signature mark, the village mural project, the University of Guam’s School of Business Capstone project, village ambassadors, Guam Chamorro Dance Academy, and other concrete programs have been launched to build Guam’s identity.
To attract more cruise ships to Guam, the island needs to promote the entire region of Micronesia as a single destination, Galito said.
In December, Pacific Asia Travel Association Micronesia Chapter Chairman Darin De Leon said the region was pushing for the island-hopping cruise liner, community-based geo-tourism, and had created a Magnificent Micronesia Web site — magnificentmicronesia.com — in partnership with the Pacific Daily News, as part of its regional branding initiative.
Now, in the second year of a five-year strategic plan, the development of a regional cruise home-ported on Guam will usher the prospects of diversifying Guam’s tourism base and enhancing the visitor experience to the region, according to Mesa.
“(Cruise lines) prefer employing people in the region because they can help sell the product but also communicate with the people on board the ship and give them a lot more interesting facts about the region,” Mesa said.