HAGÅTÑA (THE GUAM DAILY POST) — Travellers from Japan, Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines and other foreign countries are no longer required to show proof of a negative Covid-19 test result to board a flight to Guam or anywhere else in the U.S, officials said Tuesday during a Guam tourism trade show with dozens of visiting Japanese travel and tour agents.

Guam Visitors Bureau President Carl Gutierrez announced the lifting of the Covid-19 testing requirement for Guam-bound international travellers in his remarks at the GoGo! Guam Fam Tour, the first GVB-hosted Japan trade show since 2019.

The change took effect at 12:01 am Sunday.

It was “perfect timing,” Gutierrez said of the change and Guam’s ongoing tourism recovery efforts to grow demand in the Japan market.

The U.S Centres for Disease Control and Prevention dropped the Covid-19 testing requirement for inbound air travellers from abroad, but will continue to monitor the state of the pandemic and will reassess the need for a testing requirement if the situation changes.

While proof of a negative Covid-19 test result is no longer required, proof of full vaccination remains a requirement for international travelers.

Gutierrez and GVB board Chair Milton Morinaga, at the trade show held at Hyatt Regency Guam, said the lifting of Covid-19 testing requirement means more tourists will be encouraged to travel to Guam.

It’s not only less hassle for tourists, the GVB officials said, but also reduces the expense for them.

That’s about US$150 a foreign traveller doesn’t need to spend before boarding a flight to Guam.

And while on Guam, tourists can get free Covid-19 testing that’s still required for them to reenter their home countries, including Japan or Korea, Gutierrez and Morinaga said.

Overall, that’s about US$300 of savings for any Guam-bound tourist.

So, for a travelling family of three, that’s about US$900 the family can spend on Guam for tours, hotel, food and gifts, Morinaga said.

“This is a start,” Morinaga added. “Japan itself is trying to ease up. They know tourism is key to revitalising the economy.”

The free Covid-19 testing on Guam lasts through 30 September, unless GVB secures more program funding to continue the programme beyond that date.

Morinaga said he looks forward to the day when the Japanese government no longer requires Covid testing for Japanese citizens returning from Guam and other destinations.

Japan recently lowered its Covid-19 health risk to level 1 for 36 countries and regions, including Guam.

“So Guam is opening. Japan is opening. And to make it easier for our Japanese guests to return home, Guam’s Department of Public Health (and Social Services) offers free Covid tests at four testing sites right here on Guam,” Gutierrez said.

Airlines and others in the travel industry have pushed repeatedly for an end to the Covid-19 test requirement, saying it’s hurting demand for international trips.

Gutierrez said United Airlines is increasing its flights this month and will introduce Osaka routes in July. Japan Airlines is expected to reopen routes in August.

“Now is the time to support Japan travel,” he told the trade show attendees. “We hope each of you makes all the connections you need to help us improve the Guam product. Enjoy your stay and make the most of this important destination. Guam is counting on your success. Biba Japan, Biba Guam, GoGo! Guam. Japan, you’re still the one.”

It’s been 55 years since Pan American Airways flew 109 Japanese visitors to Guam in 1967 and, since then, Japan has been a vital tourism market for Guam.

Starting in 2017, however, there were more Korean tourists visiting Guam than Japanese. With fewer restrictions, Koreans have started driving up Guam’s arrival numbers in recent months, but industry experts have said it could take years to reach pre-pandemic arrivals.

Kanji Uenishi, of the Osaka-based Travel Gallery Co. Ltd., said being able to see for himself how Guam is doing now is a big help in marketing and promoting the destination among Japanese tourists.

He noted the hotel renovations on Guam, as well as the opening of a new hotel, The Tsubaki Tower, coming online during the pandemic. It’s his third visit to Guam, he said.

With Covid-19 testing no longer a requirement to enter Guam, he said, this makes it convenient for tourists.

Dozens of Guam hotels, tourist attractions, shopping malls, telecommunications and other tourism-related businesses took part in the trade show.

Ricky Woodall, general manager for Skydive Guam Inc said the trade show gave his business an opportunity to connect with Japanese travel partners so they can better market Guam as a destination and, more importantly, bring back more Japanese tourists, who used to be the company’s leading customers for skydiving.

“Skydiving, it’s fun, it gets you up there. At 8,000 to 14,000 feet, you see the island really well,” Woodall said.

Ron Batimana, a general sales agent for the Valley of the Latte, one of the major tourist attractions on Guam, said it’s good to know that more flights from Japan will resume soon.

The lifting of the Covid-19 testing requirement is welcome news, he said.

“We’re very optimistic and very happy that they are slowly coming back,” Batimana said…. PACNEWS

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