Hafa Adai! East Asian travelers are becoming wiser and choosier than ever as destinations across the region adjust their economies to the health-conscious new realities of a post-pandemic world.
The good news is that now a more restricted coronavirus has already leveled the playing field. Additionally, travel-ready trip planners are keen to navigate ongoing COVID-19 roadblocks as they weigh destination options. Places and attractions that always offer the most compelling combination of safety, convenience and novel new experiences will rise from the fray.
Largely unperturbed by reduced seating capacity, inflation, higher airfares and delays in visa processing, today’s wealthy Asian travelers plan their trips well in advance, even going so far as to pack extra clothing and medication in their holdalls. ons in anticipation of airport congestion. They also show a preference for longer stays, luxury options, and visits to Europe and the United States.
Luckily, Guam is well positioned to hit a market sweet spot made up of “revenge” and “mass affluent” travelers, many of whom amassed extra cash during the lockdown because they had nowhere else to spend it. Having waited more than two years under the weight of domestic travel restrictions, they are naturally frustrated by the monotony of a shuddering lifestyle, motivated by the lure of adventure and willing to spend a little more to upgrade select experiences and create unforgettable memories abroad to forge because they no longer feel stuck at home.
Conversion is key
But for Guam, making these once-in-a-lifetime revenge experiences a habit is the secret ingredient to revitalizing our main markets like Japan and Taiwan and revitalizing our happily re-emerging South Korean arrivals. Perhaps these holiday-hungry trekkers are opting for a Bus Plus or Business Class flight for the first time. Or maybe they’re upgrading their hotel room choices and putting some more of their disposable income into gifts, luxuries, or meals. They may choose to spend extra on a personal tour or expert concierge service just for themselves and their companions.
And if Guam sees fit to give them more credible reasons to appreciate our 4,000-year-old CHamoru culture and natural tropical environment, we won’t be surprised if they book eco-tours and pay higher prices to interact responsibly. We might soon find that they are making a concerted effort to reduce their carbon footprint during their stays, even when contemplating their next visits here, because they genuinely appreciate a place that takes such good care of itself.
Whatever the case, here are some key takeaways for travel professionals to keep in mind as the Guam Visitors Bureau and our trusted industry partners work to reopen traditional markets and through incentives, expanding air service and lobbying the Department of Transportation open up new markets Guidance and help:
- Make all travel options quick and easy: Tourists already expect booking backlogs, long queues and flight delays in transit during the gradual restoration of flight routes. One more reason to fully digitize marketing and purchasing decisions. If seat capacity, room vacancies or product/service inventories are low at the moment, automate the touchback process so they can pay on their digital devices for the airfare, room class or tour they want the moment it is available.
- Consider today’s priorities: The pandemic has not only left travelers more tech-savvy and digitally interdependent than ever before, it has also infused a deep need for self-care. Hikers listen to their bodies, adjust their priorities, and reconnect with nature. Is it any wonder that traditional beer and spirit brewers, as well as Asian restaurants, bars and nightclubs are now selling and serving more non-alcoholic beverages than ever before? Not every vacation morning is suitable for a hangover at a time when today’s remote workers are weaving business projects around their sights.
- Encourage longer stays: Travelers want nothing more than to rejuvenate and break free from more than two years of COVID-19 isolation. While today’s guests may be willing to spend more on their getaways, incentives will make them feel all the more relaxed and valued, and ready to consider visiting again.
- Grab their attention, don’t let go: Make your online and in-person offers so compelling that your guests would kick themselves if they didn’t jump right in!
- Make Room for More Filipino Visitors: After intense concerted effort since 2019, my colleagues and I have achieved a better than even chance of adding the Philippines to the official list of countries whose passport holders can legally enter Guam without a visa. The Philippines is Destination Guam’s key expansion market and my contacts in Washington, DC and at Philippine Airlines are now gaining significant traction to achieve visa-free status for our beloved Kababayans.
Additionally, I encourage all tourism industry leaders in our region to explore the myriad underrepresented travel demographics that are already readily available through the Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Program of the Guam Department of Homeland Security. This US-sanctioned benefit allows citizens of a dozen nations the privilege of visa-free entry to Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, including visitors from Australia, Brunei, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Nauru, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, South Korea, and Singapore , Taiwan and the United Kingdom. And it is through this program that we hope to add the Philippines to the list as soon as possible.
As the relatively young, middle-income Asia-Pacific jetsetters and their families grow up and earn more money, they’re likely to pour more time, wealth, and resources into Guam if they have an exceptionally good time every time they visit. As such, our longer-term priority must be to infuse a range of quality experiences into every step of their itinerary, from planning their trips to working with us as excellent hosts here on the ground, while also making their journeys back as enjoyable as possible shape.
We have reached a strategic turning point in global tourism. We have to react decisively to disruptive changes. Now’s our chance to turn wealthy mass travelers into staunch fans of Guam USA destination.
We can do this by offering them deluxe options via email that won’t break the bank but still help convince them that a little extra expense is worth the investment to share our fascinating CHamoru culture as well to appreciate the uniqueness of our island brand of hospitality. Today’s highly determined travelers are a good test market and provide a bridge to Guam’s long-held goal of entertaining wealthier, more selective guests.
Former Governor Carl TC Gutierrez is President and CEO of the Guam Visitors Bureau, Guam Permit Czar and Chair of the Governor’s Economic Strategy Council. Send comments or questions to GVB at [email protected].