• By Johanna Salinas

In the absence of tourists, The Tsubaki Tower adjusts target market

The Tsubaki Tower has officially opened its doors, celebrating a new milestone in Guam tourism despite the industry pause.

During the quiet of Covid-19 lockdown, Guam felt simpler with closed businesses and limited gatherings. As the island slowly reopens, the atmosphere still feels incomplete with the lack of tourists. Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero earlier planned to reopen tourism on July 1, but spikes in Covid-19 prompted the recall of this plan.

The Tsubaki Tower was originally set to open on April 25, but the schedule was pushed back due to the pandemic. Despite the governor's decision to delay the reopening of tourism, The Tsubaki Tower carried on with its July 1 date-- with or without tourists.

In the absence of arrivals from the usual source markets, The Tsubaki Tower had to adjust its plans and expectations.

General Manager Ken Yanagisawa said The Tsubaki Tower was already targeting the locals as the main market for the hotel even prior to the pandemic.

“We were thinking of making survival with the local market,” he said. “Breakfast is always mainly in-house guests, but lunch and dinner we want to heavily rely on local market. We strongly feel that the local clientele will love our current offerings. That’s our strongest part we’re thinking about.”

The lobby has a 24-hour deli café and bar, with big couches and polished coffee tables—an ideal place to work in peace or to meet friends for cocktails.

The Tsubaki Tower is the first newly built hotel in Guam within the past four years.

Like a secret castle by the sea, The Tsubaki Tower may feel empty without the bustle of travelers. The hotel has 340 luxury rooms with smart technology. When a guest inserts their keycard, the lights automatically turn on and the curtains open to a balcony view of Tumon Bay.

Photos by Johanna Salinas

“On the room side, the time will come and the customers will come in from Korea, Taiwan, and Japan,” Yanagisawa said. “It’s just an extension. We thought it would be July 1, but quarantine hasn't gone away. That’s way we wanted to commit ourselves to the date created by the government. Of course it was delayed. We strongly believe that opening up the restaurant for our community is something we are able to contribute.”

Many of the staff started working at the hotel almost a week ago and were hired through Tsubaki’s job fair in November. Originally, Tsubaki was seeking 340 employees to work various hospitality and maintenance jobs. Yanagisawa is hopeful that they will soon be able to hire that capacity.

“In the job fair we go resumes and job applications, so those were the people who were prioritized,” said the general manager. “We tried to minimize the hiring for the beginning, but we try to make sure the island will get what they deserve. Probably within one and a half to two years I want to have the services to give to the customers.”

Despite the delayed opening, Tsubaki made sure to pay their managers who had to work during lockdown. “Managers were paid 100 percent sometimes because of the opening’s timing,” Yanagisawa said.

Although Yanagisawa believes that The Tsubaki Tower could be a potential government quarantine site, the hotel is still finding its flow. Yanagisawa said, “We will not be able to provide that yet. Timing of the quarantine going away, we tried to rush ourselves. In the meantime, for one month to two months, we have to modify ourselves. After that, if there’s a quarantine that happens, actually also as GM of Nikko Hotel, we’d be willing to quarantine."

General Manager Ken Yanagisawa speaks to hotel staff during a job fair in this November 2019 file photo.

The Tsubaki Tower hopes to be a responsible business and give back to Guam. The hotel also hopes to open internships to the Guam Community College culinary and hospitality students. They have already vowed to be a host for Guam art and artists.

“We have been supporting the CAHA,” Yanagisawa said. “We have an arrangement with CAHA for many things. Now, I was just talking with Frances Guerrero about a future, because our space is available. I saw thinking is probably an art gallery for temporary purposes to let our local artists have a space.”

Mitsuo “Mike” Sato, president of PHR Ken Micronesia Inc., noted to guests that The Tsubaki Tower aims to serve as a proud ambassador for Guam.

“From the conceptual stage, The Tsubaki Tower was designed to honor the island’s unique culture and sense of place.,” said Sato. “We incorporated into the design natural textures, language, and the flavors inspired by Guam’s nature and history, a first of its kind for the island. We wanted to show our commitment to Guam, by including its essence in the littlest details.”

The 27-story resort is perched at the highest point of Tumon Bay and nestled into five acres of lush greenery and mountainside. Each of The Tsubaki Tower’s 340 rooms and suites faces the ocean and offers panoramic views of Guam’s Pacific blue waters and vivid sunsets.

From the higher floors, guests will be able to view famed Two Lovers Point to the north and the pristine Orote Point to the south. Two white-sandy beaches are within walking distance of the hotel – Tumon Bay, a world-class marine preserve, and historic Gun Beach, accessible by a nature trail.

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