HAGATNA (GUAM PACIFIC DAILY NEWS) — The first large group of “Air V&V” tourists from Taiwan arrived in Guam Tuesday afternoon aboard an Eva Air charter flight — a milestone in the island’s efforts to restart its pandemic-crippled tourism industry.

The island’s travel quarantine was eased, starting 04 July, which means arriving passengers who have a negative PCR-type COVID-19 test during the prior 72 hours can skip quarantine.

The Taiwan tourists are staying at four different hotels, according to the Guam Visitors Bureau, which stated all 153 passengers tested negative and will avoid quarantine.

Guam Visitors Bureau(GVB)put up a banner at the airport and provided live entertainment to welcome the passengers.

“Air V&V was a way to introduce travel back to Guam” and to provide vaccines for visitors who have a hard time getting vaccinated at home, said Guam Hotel and Restaurant Association President Mary Rhodes. GHRA has been coordinating the program’s details, working with Guam government officials.

Rhodes said it likely will take several months for regularly scheduled tourist flights to resume, although some carriers might add a few introductory flights in the short-term.

As it stands, Guam expects to receive thousands of Taiwanese Air V&V tourists on charter flights, with about 150 to 170 passengers per flight, Rhodes said. There also is interest in starting “Air V&V” flights from South Korea and the Philippines, she said.

South Korea low-cost carriers Jin Air and Jejuna Air are considering flights to Guam, she said.

The governor’s decision to ease travel restrictions and eliminate the hotel quarantine for those with a negative test has cut the cost of Air V&V packages, which were given the green light in June. The new policy eliminates a COVID-19 test that would have been required to release visitors from hotel quarantine.

And visitors no longer are required to pay for a week’s worth of hotel quarantine and room-delivered meals.

Even before the travel quarantine was eased, the Air V&V programme required passengers to test negative for COVID-19 before flying here. Rhodes said 10 hotels still are available for quarantine if a visitor does not have a negative test result.

A US$155 transportation fee, to and from the airport, is part of Air V&V” packages, Rhodes said, but visitors aren’t required to use the service.

The vaccine doses for visitors are free, but there is a US$100 administration fee, per shot, plus a US$200 fee for a COVID-19 PCR-type test before the visitors leave island.

That means a vaccine and testing package for visitors who choose the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine is US$300, and $400 for the two-dose vaccines. Those who choose the single-dose vaccine could be here only a few days, while those who want two-dose vaccines could be here several weeks. Rhodes said the testing and vaccine packages at one stage cost US$880.

U.S. citizens who visit Guam to be vaccinated can get their shots for free at the government-run clinics or can pay US$42 to receive them at their hotel.

Governor Lou Leon Guerrero cited the island’s high vaccination rate, with more than 75% of adults fully vaccinated, as the reason for further easing the travel quarantine. The goal is for the island to achieve herd immunity by Liberation Day, 21 July, which means at least 80% of adults must be fully vaccinated.

“We’ve been able to get vaccines more than what we need to get above the 80%, which is why the governor was open to doing it and allowing foreign nationals (to receive doses),” for the Air V&V programme, Rhodes said.

The vaccines and testing for the program are being administered by American Medical Centre and Guam Regional Medical City.

Dr Hoa Nguyen, of American Medical Centre, said tourists sign up online, before arriving on island, choosing their vaccination date and the type of vaccine they want.

Tour groups will be vaccinated at their hotels, either on the first or second day, he said. Rhodes said those vaccines will be administered in the hotel’s concierge area.

“Individually booked passengers can either request a private immunization in their room, which costs them more, or go to a kiosk that we plan to set up in Tumon,” Nguyen said. He said the doses will not be administered at his clinic in order to avoid contact with clinic patients.

“They will receive a QR code for immunization verification … and their full documentation,” Nguyen said.

He said PCR tests will be administered at the hotels, 24 hours before scheduled departure, and the visitors will receive their results electronically.

GVB President Carl Gutierrez last week said the next two charter flights from Taiwan are scheduled to arrive 14 and 18 July.

Rhodes said some optional tours for visitors are open during the week, but most currently operate only on weekends.

“As they start to see those numbers increase, they’ll start to open on weekdays,” she said.

Once Guam’s air carriers start to see 50% to 60% passenger capacity to Guam, they can start scheduling regular flights, Rhodes said, which will allow other parts of the visitor industry, such as transportation services, to resume…. PACNEWS

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