Buildup shines positive light on economy - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Buildup shines positive light on economy

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by Michele Catahay

Guam - With the upcoming military buildup set to take place in the next several years, many have raised concerns about the fate of the tourism industry. While some question whether tourism will remain Guam's number one economy, some say the buildup is good for the industry.

Recently retired senior faculty member at the University of Guam's School of Business for International Tourism Programs Dr. John Salas says the military buildup is going to be good for Guam. He says the island needs to embrace the military personnel because they will still be considered tourists, telling KUAM News, "It behooves us to take good care of them and to treat them as we do with all our tourists and to welcome them enthusiastically and show them that Guam is a good place to be."

The tourism market currently consists of tourists from all parts of Asia. Dr. Salas says there are many students on island taking an interest in the field. In fact, he says eight out of ten students who graduate from the tourism programs at UOG and the Guam Community College become employed in the industry.

While there is hope, Salas does admit there will be some challenges as the buildup occurs, noting, "I think the largest challenge is going to be customer service because we're going to be dealing with a different type of tourist that is the military who are going to be a little more demanding then our current visitors."

He says the current market consists of Asians who come to the island for vacation. He says these tourists can visit and if they aren't satisfied with it, they won't come back, whereas the military will more than likely make demands.  "Right now, we have to get more attractions for tourists to have some things to do at night because right now when the sun goes down, if you're a water sports-type person or if you're a tour-type person, what do you do at night?" he said.

Salas says the Guam Visitor's Bureau's "I Am Guam" campaign is a positive step in allowing tourists to get to know the island and its people. He says the island needs to come together.  "We can't be dependent on imported labor. We can't be dependent on factors that influence things like profit. We've got to say 'okay tourism is here permanently, treat it permanently by developing a workforce that is going to be permanent," he said.

Although recently retired, Salas says he remains dedicated to see Guam grow in a positive light, adding, "I'm really glad and I'm looking forward to the days when we can really say that Guam is really good."

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