Cruise ships have passed through Guam on and off for many years, yet the island has so far not created a permanent cruise ship industry. It’s widely believed that that is where the true economic benefit of the industry comes from.
In October, the Legislature’s Committee on Health, Tourism, Military Affairs and Senior Citizens put the Guam Visitors Bureau’s feet to the fire on this, as it held a hearing for Bill 167-34, which would direct Guam Visitors Bureau to develop and publish a request for information relative to developing the island as a cruise ship industry homeport.
Committee Chair Senator Dennis Rodriquez, opened the meeting:
“For the past few years, Guam has invested, through GVB, a significant amount of resources to the cruise industry, in looking at the cruise industry and seeing how it can be developed on Guam. These were done through membership in the Micronesian Cruise Ship Association. We estimate about $200,000 has been invested in this effort."
The Pacific Asia Travel Association provided GVB services in developing a cruise industry homeport. PATA received a report from their consultants on the Micronesia cruise development. It highlighted strengths and weaknesses of a cruise industry in Micronesia.
Rodriguez suggested that instead of allocating the $50,000 a year to GVB's membership in the Micronesian Cruise Association, the legislature should fund a special program in the GVB that Rodriguez named "the Cruise Industry Program."
This would comport with efforts by the Guam Economic Development Authority and GVB to create a regional home port cruise industry, creating more job opportunities, than mere port calls.
At the hearing, the committee was presented with a letter from GVB Vice President Antonio Muña and GEDA Deputy Administrator Mana Silva Taijeron. They wrote, "While GVB and GEDA support the intent of [the bill], we feel it would be best to pursue this process through a Request For Proposal and contract a consultant that will help us answer the questions contained in the bill as well as identify areas our government would need to work on to successfully implement this effort."
The main testimony in support of the bill was given by Monte Mesa. Mesa has a unique position as both a member of the board of GEDA and of the GVB.
“One of the things we have going for us today in entertaining cruise ships for both homeport and port calls, is that we already have attractions set up on island,” said Mesa.
“We have tours that people could get on. This is something that needs to be further developed because it’s a different set of customers.”
Because cruise ship tourists have short visits—from a few hours to a day—GVB would have to figure out how to accommodate the ship guests, such as creating tours exclusively for them. The proposal would not only benefit Guam's economy. The plan is for cruise liners to also visit the Northern Marianas, Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia and the Marshall Islands. A flourishing cruise ship industry in Micronesia could give visitors a chance to see parts of the region that they might not have had the chance to experience during a stay on Guam alone. Along with tourists, local people could also appreciate the chance to experience areas of Micronesia they have not yet seen, Mesa suggested.
Although cruise tourists would not have enough time to see most of Guam, surely that experience would encourage them to have an extended stay in the future.