The Problems with Guam

I’ve been meaning to do this post since I first read this article last month, but February was a super busy month for me. Now that life has calmed down, I finally have the time to catch up on everything I’ve let slide. One of those things is this article I read in the Pacific Daily News regarding the Guam Visitors Bureau’s new goal. The board Chairman, Mark Baldyga, stated their goal is to reach two million visitors to Guam by 2020.  I thought this would be a good time to address some of the problems I see daily in Guam. Below are my responses and thoughts to a few of the statements made throughout the article.

1. I immediately became annoyed with GVB’s focus on Japanese tourists. If you don’t know, Russian tourists were granted their visas to visit Guam and their numbers on island have increased. In this article, it states that Russian visitors have been staying longer, thus; spending more money in Guam. Yet, the focus tends to be toward catering to  Japanese tourists. I understand why, but things are changing and it’s time to jump on the bandwagon and be inclusive of all the new faces in Guam.

I’d been planning on taking my parents to Hamamoto’s Tropical Fruit World when they came to visit last month. When I called, I was told that their tours were only in Japanese, unless I had a group larger than 15. I then realized just how hard it is to be an English speaking tourist in Guam. Bus signs and information are in either Japanese and recently added Russian but no English and The Reef Hotel’s website is in Japanese only, which is a shame because they have a couple of really nice bars with the best sunset views. Ignoring or limiting certain markets (people living in Guam due to the military, U.S. expats) isn’t smart business.

2. The plan to make “Guam cleaner and safer” is a great idea for everyone in Guam. One of the things that my parents commented on was the amount of trash that was dumped EVERYWHERE. You could be at the most beautiful beach or viewpoint and see garbage, mattresses, and household appliances that had been dumped. Do you know what happens when you leave trash lying around? Rats and roaches. A few months ago someone thought the road leading to my condo complex was the perfect place to dump their tires and mattress. They’re still there. It’s absolutely disgusting and leaves an ill impression on all of us who call Guam home. Especially coming from Oregon, where recycling is embraced, to see the type of garbage that is just thrown away that could be recycled feels wrong. Even at parks and beaches, a garbage can is hard to find. And when you find one, it’s usually overflowing with trash. Recently there have been recycling stations (aluminum, plastic, and paper) placed sporadically throughout Tumon, I guess that’s a step in the right direction. MORE PLEASE.

DSC_0028

Where in the world is this acceptable?

DSC_0025

Also, more police are needed in all villages not just Tumon. After that horrendous murder that took place last year where a man ran over and then stabbed people in Tumon, Guam Police Department had pledged to add more officers to the area and even spent money on new mopeds. A year later, tell me where they’ve gone? Tourists are very important to Guam’s economy, which is why I don’t understand that when there happen to be police in Tumon (who aren’t doing much other than standing near Underwater World) why they won’t AT the very LEAST help them cross the street. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen tourists standing at the crosswalk as cars speed past them while an officer is watching. When traffic lights are out (which is often), where are the officers to help guide traffic in dangerous areas? You don’t want to get the reputation that Guam is a dangerous place and allow people to believe that it’s a third world country.

3. “The focus should be on improving the quality of life for island residents and making the island a more prosperous place to live.”  – I’m pretty sure that tourism is Guam’s number one industry, so why not make the lives of those who serve and work in this industry better? I was very offended when I saw a job posting at one of Tumon’s large hotels advertising for an accounting position which required three years of experience and a Bachelor’s degree in accounting. The pay? MINIMUM WAGE! Do you know how much it costs to go to college? That’s not even enough to make payments on student loans AND live in Guam (or anywhere). I’ve noticed that customer service lacks in many Guam establishments and I wonder if it’s because of poor training, pay, and value that companies place in their employees. I can’t imagine that these HUGE hotels, restaurants and other companies that charge ridiculous tourist rates are really unable to pay their employees more than minimum wage. Invest in your employees and it will surely pay off. Considering Guam’s high cost of living and the recent increase in crime, the two could be related.

4. “Graffiti, hawkers bothering visitors at street corners, cheap vinyl business establishment signs, substandard landscaping, and poorly maintained sidewalks and public restrooms should be addressed.” –  I’m glad these things were addressed. Although small problems, if fixed, they could change Guam for the better. In Tumon you have expensive luxury stores neighboring sketchy massage businesses, annoying handbillers, and abandoned buildings. Small things can make a huge difference, even if it’s just adding a nice sign to your building.

I’m surprised no one has fallen into or tripped on one of the many holes in the sidewalks. Maintaining things as they deteriorate seems to be more cost effective than waiting until something is completely destroyed and has to be redone.

5. Road conditions & transportation – Whenever Peter and I travel we always run into the problem of how will we get to the airport. We have two choices, pay $25 to go two miles in a taxi or try to sneak on one of the hotel buses and pretend we’re going back to wherever they think we came from. I can only imagine what tourists go through. Their first impression of Guam, aside from the stinky/messy airport, is the expensive ride to their hotel. An affordable airport shuttle would be nice. There are SO many buses on island I’m sure they could put them to better use.

Speaking of too many buses, do they have to pay a special road tax for the damage that they cause to Guam’s roads? If not, they should! The roads are terrible. Whoever is in charge of the roads should reconsider their profession. Infrastructure  should be a top priority on this quickly growing island. Ignoring the HUGE potholes or fixing them by throwing a bunch of gravel over them isn’t cutting it. Fix them properly please and not just cheaply. I rented a trike for my birthday and it was one of the scariest things I’d ever done. Not because of the trike, but because driving it over the bumps and potholes was treacherous. I understand that during the rainy season, the rain washes away parts of the road and they have to be fixed often. BUT the way the roads are fixed is a joke. Filling pot holes not over the top but just under, so that it’s still a pothole just not as deep, doesn’t fix it. The road to Ritidian should be better. That’s a beach that Guam should be proud of, but the road doesn’t reflect that.

6. “Though Guam sees itself as a competitor to Hawaii[…]” –  Uhh please don’t do that. You want to be different. The differences between Hawaii and Guam should be highlighted. I’ve been to Hawaii before and it is much cheaper and cleaner, yet; Guam’s beaches are by far the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen, the water is warmer, clearer and southern Guam is absolutely beautiful. Not to mention Guam’s intricate history and Chamorro culture that is so special. Those are the reasons that make Guam standout and why tourists should forgo Hawaii (sorry Hawaii). Go Guam!

I’m sorry if this blog post seems negative/ranty but I get so frustrated when Guam’s beauty and potential is being taken for granted. All of the problems mentioned are not problems that can’t be fixed. These are things that we should all keep in mind and make an effort to help change. I hope GVB actually does help improve the island. Before we consider inviting more people to visit Guam, let’s take care of our island.

Signature

Advertisements

34 comments

  1. I totally agree with you on every aspect of your article. I see the same things. I too am very disappointed with the way our island is. It has so much richness but it seems like some folks are letting it go instead of embracing it.

    Great article.

    Chris

  2. I agree with you in every aspect except the first one. Although the Russians spend significantly more and stay longer, that market is still in its infancy. As of February, the market has only increased 777 pax as compared to 2013. That represents less than 1% of the total market share. To reach the short term goal of 2 million visitors, focus needs to be directed at our Asian market where the biggest increase in arrivals is from the Korean and Taiwan visitors. An increase of 24.5% and 10% percent respectively.

    The Russian market market should be focused on concurrently with these markets and in time it may surpass the Asian market but as of now, there are not enough Russian travel agents to handle a large influx as compared to HIS, JTB, Logo, etc.

    Lastly, it all boils down to supply and demand. There is not a big enough demand to warrant businesses to shift focus from the core markets.

    1. The Russian tourist numbers are low, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t rising. Aside from the numbers, if you walk through Tumon the faces you see have definitely changed. In my opinion, a good businessperson would see the potential of this new market and jump on it. The point of my first statement was to say that some business are very exclusive to one market. I am not Japanese but I do tourist things and sometimes it feels like I’m unwelcome or those things weren’t meant for me. Thanks for reading!

  3. I agree that the demographics are changing. In the long run, the Russian market and maybe even the domestic market will catch up. I’m talking specifically sky the short term goal of 2 mil.

    I’ve worked in this industry for 2 decades and have seen the visitor landscape change from high end shoppers to family travelers…..hopefully I’ll still be working here to see the Russian and other secondary markets become a viable source of revenue. I do see your point though and enjoy reading your blog.

  4. You bring up important issues, and ones that I remember as being so obvious as a newcomer, then less so as the island becomes more familiar. I grew up on Guam and then moved back with my stateside husband years later and remember seeing these glaring issues that I had never noticed before. It’s valuable to share this fresh perspective as this is how our tourists will view the island too. Besides, all these things make Guam a better place for residents as well.

    I want to add that Guam’s tours and accommodations also need to be more accessible to the returning Chamorro friends and family. As a Chamorro living stateside now, we can buy a package tour to Australia or the Philippines with an easy web search, yet finding an easy way to arrange a visit to Guam is difficult.

    Thank you for the blog post. I’ll have to read more on your site.

    Si Yu’us Ma’ase’

    Sandy

  5. I agree with you on all of this I will also add the homeless dog population is crazy and also very sad to see.

    1. So true! It’s heartbreaking, especially when you see them begging for food. I thought I heard something about G.A.I.N. and the National Humane Society working together to get this under control??? Fingers crossed!

  6. Wow I am so sad to hear about these island problems. I hope and pray things get better God willing.

  7. I loved this. I was born and raised on Guam and have also worked in the tourist industry. I agree with each and every thing you said. Thank you for sharing!

  8. antonia , i agree with everything you’ve said . its our government that needs to address these problems here on our island. they make the rules they have the say so in what goes on our island. its time for a change. our children here are going to suffer in the future for the bad decisions made.may it be gvb, dpw,gpd,village mayors, etc

  9. You are so right about everything. Hope someone that knows someone that knows someone on this island and reads this blog who can actually do something does something about it especially about the trash!

  10. Great article Antonia! What might help the issues you’ve mentioned is sharing this on every Senatorial or Gubernatorial candidates blog, twitter or Facebook accounts, being as this is an election year! Ask each one to address the issues and give their feedback on what they intend to do if elected. The government of Guam, not just GVB should be held accountable!

    1. Great suggestion! Yes — the next step is to contact those who represent the people of Guam and who have the power to ensure these positive changes.

  11. Great article Antonia… I’ve been involved in tourism practically my whole adult life and have noticed noticed the problems in it especially on the Japanese side. I am aware of how much we favor to the Japanese tourist and agree with your point of view…. totally!! But what really bothers me the most is how the Japan based company’s here on Guam “cheat” our Island out of revenue. There are a great many “wrongs” being done in these company’s involving visa’s that result in the loss of local employment. And though I have voiced such activities to DOL, nothing has ever happened. I am no accountant but the ruthlessness of such company’s is very obvious and they’ve been prospering happily off of Guam’s sons & daughters hard work for far too long!! I am no racist, I love tourism and its tourists, but this is too much. Though my statement seems to come from just one mouth… I will bet everything I have in this precious world that there are many many more locals aware of this.

  12. Like many comments, this is spot ON! But alas, as we all agree on the issues and needed changes, how will these issues and changes turned into a reality? Yet I see nothing being done to accomplish and tackle the problems by the movers & shakers.

    Trash problem: well, when it’s optional residents pay for trash service in villages and certain communities ($30/mo I pay to have trash pickup), many people will not and don’t stiff out the money to pay for such a service, so they dump anywhere. Anywhere dumping is free. Everywhere I’ve lived until Guam, trash service has been incorporated in the water/sewer/waste fees that residents pay. We all need running water & sewage and pay for that, so include trash service and make people pay. Sounds easy huh? And as many beach clean up/island clean up days/events there are and the people involved in the cleanup efforts, it’s a shame. The next week, the cleaned up areas are back to looking like normal again. Yes, “normal” in this case means trashed.

    If there a was a “city service” that provided adequate trash bins in all public parks/beaches, sidewalks, posted no littering signs that aren’t faded there could be a decrease in litter. Placing these waste bins create jobs as someone would need to maintain them. Creating jobs builds the economy. You go onto the military bases recreational areas and there is little littering or little overflow of trash, or dirty broken bathrooms for folks to use, because there are people and signs enforcing the situation and cleaning out the bins/bathrooms. You go to the public parks/beaches and it’s filthy. Same island, same people, difference resources and different outcome.

    Being a local who speaks English who wants to do the tourist thing problem: yes, has it’s setbacks also. Prices are gouged for tourism. Sure, ask for tourist rate…Yet the industry treats its locals as basically second rate. The tourists arrive, spend a week, and spend a lot of money, and go back to their homes. The locals live here 365 days times XX years, spend a lot also (it’s not cheap living on Guam), and go back to their homes too.

    Govt of Guam wants to boost its tourism industry. Kuddos! But in order to have the best of that world, the local industry needs its own boost first.

      1. Many of the same problems existed in 1980 when I moved to Guam. The trash problem is multi-faceted and the solutions must be too. The government can’t solve the problem alone. The mindset must shift. That may take a few generations. How do we teach and pass on the value of stewardship and honor of our precious island home? I believe it begins with families, strengthened by schools and communities and adopted by government with actions reflecting those values.

  13. I agree with all your points. I also agree with Louann’s comment about changing the mindset of generations to come. Some locals have the mindset that someone else will clean it up. They’ll see trash on the ground and walk on by because it’s not their trash. After living in the states I acquired a sense of responsibility that if you see it pick it up. I remember walking with a friend on the beach in Tumon and seeing a foam cup and picking it up to throw it in the trash. I was disappointed when my friend said, “Just leave it, someone else will eventually throw it away. It’s not your trash.” That’s when I realized that some locals don’t realize their responsibility to the environment and beautification of our island. It won’t clean itself. This is why we have clean up days. Because some people leave it to others to take care of business.

  14. I agree on your points. An idea for the trash problem is possible a reward system with large fines. What I mean is this a law passes where if you can get a picture or video of someone illegally dumping and you send it to the police you get a $400 reward upon that persons conviction. The perpetrator would be fined $1000 and sentenced to community service cleaning Guam. $400 would be sent to the one who sent the evidence, and the remaining $600 would be used for court fees and any other expenses.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s