By Troy Torres
Former Gov. Carl Gutierrez, Guam's tourism chief, has a vision for tourism undeterred by the escalating tensions between the Koreas.
"We're expecting to welcome flights from (South) Korea July 1 or July 2, and if those tourists don't have problems with quarantine going back home, then we'll see the market pick up," Gov. Gutierrez told Kandit in a sit down interview with him in his office at the Guam Visitors Bureau.
Gov. Gutierrez is the president and CEO of GVB and the chairman of the governor's Economic Strategy Council. He also is chief advisor to the governor for economic development, national and international affairs.
"In my experience, these things come and go, and they won't have an effect on tourists wanting to come from South Korea," he said when asked whether he's concerned about the current events between Pyongyang and Seoul affecting his vision for tourism.
The experience he speaks of is extensive. He was the two-term governor of Guam, who led the disaster recovery effort in the wake of the crash of Korean Airlines Flight 801, literally from the trenches. He also served during the transition between North Korea's founder Kim Il-sung to his son, Kim Jong-il, when the world first experienced rising tensions from the bellicose that has since come from the three power transitions in the communist country.
Gov. Gutierrez's plans for tourism reach beyond Korea, though. He wants his agency to market further to Taiwan's 23 million people, and he believes there is hope for efforts to secure a Guam-only visa waiver with the Philippines from the United States government.
"There is untapped potential there," he said, referring to the Taiwan visa waiver, a waiver secured during his time as the governor. His successors concentrated their outreach on Japan and South Korea, and fought without success for an opening to the Chinese tourist market.
Former Gov. Felix Camacho tried to secure a visa program for Philippine tourists before the Bush administration left office, then had to deal with the Obama administration's reticence to the proposed policy. Former Gov. Eddie Calvo all but abandoned the effort, having served most of his two terms alongside the majority of the Obama years.
Gov. Gutierrez believes things are different with the Trump administration, and has curried a relationship with the White House.
"I believe we can see something next year," he said confidently.