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Tourism numbers up, rise to continue

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by Lannie Walker

Guam - You may have noticed more visitors filling the streets in the last few weeks as Guam forges ahead in a key market. Tourism is on the rise in Guam, as Ernie Galito with the Guam Visitors Bureau says the increase can be attributed to a variety of reasons.  "There has been a steady increase mainly because we are recovering from last year H1N1 Virus, so there is a lot of pent-up demand in the major markets like Japan and Korea," he said.

A lack of major storms in the last eight years and the strength of Asian currency against the U.S. Dollar are other factors that have lead to the a boost. Galito says the number of tourists from Japan are up 9% since last year, visitors for Taiwan are up by 43% and Guam has seen a whopping 65% in the Korean market.  

The boost can be felt down the street at Churrascos Brazilian Barbeque and Salad Bar, according to assistant manager Erika Galleguillos.  "I has always fluctuated," she detailed, "but I would say in the last month maybe about three weeks ago, we had a little swing."

While businesses like Churrascos benefit from the influx in tourists, the establishments Versatily could boost the market in other ways according to pastry chef Raul Cordero, who said, "It's a nice thing for them to go back to where they are from and say they had this nice meal in Guam, I didn't have to go to Rio to have the meal go back and say good things about the restaurant and subsequently it will be good for the island as a whole."

But it could take more than a tasty meal to keep the tourist numbers up. Holes in the road and burnt out street lights could keep tourist away says Adria Peric, an employee at Lotus Surf Shop.  "They come here to see the beauty of Guam and if you have broken roads or streetlights that don't work for pedestrians because predominately they walk around Tumon, so if you don't have that accessibility, I  think it will make them stray away from coming back," she said.

For Galito, this is something GVB is well aware of. One eyesore is a series of missing bricks on Tumon's main stretch that are on their way out. "We are going to replace all those paver blocks and put in colored concrete ones, and it will be stamped so it will look like paver blocks," he confirmed.

And to keep the visitors coming in, GVB along with the Department of Public Works and the Guam Power Authority, is working to keep the lights on along Guam's tourist district. "But there are some electrical problems that take more than replacing things," Galito noted, "so we are trying to work out a solution to make sure the lights are on and illuminated for both our tourists and residents as well."

Galito says the road work will begin on November 29 and will take six months to complete. The lights he says will be replaced in the next couple of weeks. He says he expects the gradual increase in tourism to continue through the beginning of next year.

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