Guam’s free COVID-19 testing for tourists is set to end on September 30 amid the lifting of most pandemic travel restrictions by Japan, South Korea and other major tourism markets.
Nearly 100,000 visitors took advantage of the Guam Visitors Bureau’s free trial program in partnership with private clinics and the Department of Public Health and Human Services.
The GVB approved the free testing for visitors in 2021 as an incentive for tourists to return to Guam after the pandemic.
That’s $150 to $175 that every Guam tourist doesn’t have to spend as GVB covers the cost.
“As our source markets have eased border controls, there is no demand for pre-testing and we have begun downsizing testing sites with the Department of Public Health and Human Services,” GVB Vice President Gerry Perez said Monday.
But on the rare occasions when testing is needed, public health and private clinics are the best places to go, he said.
Two of the four Tumon sites that offer free PCR and antigen testing to visitors are closed on Sunday.
Tests are no longer conducted at Pacific Islands Club Guam and Hotel Nikko Guam.
According to GVB, only test locations at Hyatt Regency Guam and The Plaza mall in Tumon will remain open for travel testing. They are open from 9am to 12pm and from 2pm to 4pm
GVB spent at least $3 million to provide free COVID-19 testing and related expenses, based on an initial investment of $1 million. Public Health funded the rest of the resources to support the program
Perez said that of the nearly 100,000 visitors who took part, about 27,650 were visitors from March to June 2022, when five private clinics helped. About 67,797 visitors attended the GVB partnership with Public Health from June 13th to September 17th.
About 1,028 locals also took advantage of the free tests, he said.
Korea and Japan will no longer require proof of negative COVID-19 test results before citizens are re-entered.
Other travel destinations such as the Philippines and the Federated States of Micronesia still require negative COVID-19 test results to enter or re-enter.
“We anticipated approximately 130,000 visitors for this fiscal year, but we believe the free trials have helped generate significant interest in our source markets, particularly Korea,” Perez said of Guam’s total visitor arrivals, which are now approaching 200,000.
As of June this year, the United States, along with Guam and other territories, also dropped the requirement to show a negative COVID-19 test to board a flight. GVB had said scrapping testing requirements had helped tourism recover.
Guam saw an increase in monthly arrivals during the summer months. The status and recovery of tourism are among the topics of the GVB members’ forum on Wednesday at 11 a.m.
The Bureau is also expected to report on its budget plans for fiscal years 2022 and 2023.
The topics also include remedial and corrective measures as a result of the review of the GVB statutes. In May, the GVB board voted to cancel all of its meetings until the review was completed and corrective action taken. The vote came after GVB President Carl Gutierrez accused the board of exceeding its duties and functions and violating the Open Government Act by allegedly meeting in private and voting on GVB initiatives and programs affecting their companies benefit.