A travel and tourism celebrity is retiring after 40 years of service in the travel and tourism industry in the US territory Guam. President & CEO Pilar Laguaña will retire according to a press release by the Guam Visitors Bureau (GVB)
“It has been a pleasure to work with Pilar during her tenure at GVB. I know first-hand since the 1990s to today that Pilar is a well-respected tourism professional in the various destinations we do business with,” said GVB Board Chairman P. Sonny Ada. “She has been a great asset to the growth of the Bureau and instrumental in the successful growth of Guam’s number one industry. On behalf of the Board of Directors, I thank her for her commitment, high standards, and work ethic, which will be very much missed. We wish her all the best.”
Ada accepted Laguaña’s notice of retirement to the Board of Directors and has immediately formed an Ad Hoc Committee to oversee a search of potential candidates to fill the President & CEO position. Laguana’s last day will be on May 30, 2020.
“I have devoted most of my life passionately sharing and promoting the love that I have for our beautiful island with the world. I want to thank Governor Lou Leon Guerrero, Oversight Chairwoman Senator Therese Terlaje, as well as my board of directors, management, staff, tourism industry, and the people of Guam for allowing me to serve you these past four decades,” said Laguaña. “After spending a good deal of time reflecting on this decision, I am ready to retire and to begin my next chapter. I am truly grateful for this experience and wish great success to you all. I have confidence our industry will recover with the very capable team that will carry tourism forward.”
Four decades of service
Laguaña became President and CEO of GVB in February 2019. During her time at the Bureau, Guam reached its best fiscal year in tourism history with over 1.63 million visitors in Fiscal Year 2019.
As a seasoned tourism-marketing executive, she began her career at the Bureau in 1977. She advanced through many roles, including serving as GVB’s Deputy General Manager in 1982 and the Director of Global Marketing since 1987.
Laguaña drove the opening of the Korea market in the early 1980s and grew international markets including Japan, Taiwan, North America, Canada, Hong Kong, Philippines, Micronesia, Russia, Australia, Europe, China, Southeast Asia, and Malaysia. She has also led efforts for niche and lucrative market segments to diversify Guam’s tourist markets.
Her background also includes more than 30 years of Micronesia regional tourism marketing, business development, government relations, international advertising and public relations, and global brand development & management. Laguaña provided additional leadership support to national and state tourism offices in the island nations of Micronesia.
She is an active member of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), a global organization that awarded her the prestigious PATA Award of Merit in 2009. Laguaña also holds the longest tenure in the PATA Micronesia Chapter, serving as its immediate past chairwoman. She also served on the PATA Executive Board in 2017-2018.
She was awarded the 2017 Lifetime Achievement in Travel and Tourism Award by USA’s Women in Travel and Tourism International (WITTI) in Washington, D.C.
Laguaña developed, managed, and supervised award-winning global campaigns such as the Shop Guam e-Festival since 2012.
Her leadership was extremely instrumental for GVB’s global tourism marketing initiatives to be notably and nationally recognized with the U.S. President’s “E” Award for export service in 2017. U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross presented this prestigious award to GVB, which earned Guam the highest recognition any U.S. entity can receive for making a significant contribution to the expansion of U.S. exports. It is awarded only once every four years.
Laguaña attended George Washington High School on Guam and graduated from Governor Wallace Rider Farrington High School in Hawaii. She received her college education at the International Business College and Canon’s Business College in Hawaii. She also pursued her professional Japanese language and cultural training from the Tokyo School of Japanese Language – Institute for Research in Linguistic Culture in Japan.
Laguaña resides in Tamuning but spent her childhood in the villages of Sinajana and Ordo.