problems in guam

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.

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Where in the world is this acceptable?

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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.

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