26th Moscow International Travel & Tourism Exhibition
12–14 March 2019 • Expocentre, Moscow

Guam: taking Russians to paradise

After a lean few years, the Guam Visitors Bureau is looking to bring visitors numbers back into the five-figure range – and it’s looking good so far, with numbers increasing every month in 2017 so far. We spoke to Mark Manglona, the North American and Pacific Marketing Manager for the Guam Visitors Bureau, about what the island is doing this year to boost its tourist numbers.
Guam: taking Russians to paradise
Mark, how many Russians does Guam welcome every year?
We operate on a fiscal year from October to September, so for fiscal year 2016 around 3,000 Russians. This has decreased from the previous fiscal year, so we want to change that. A few years ago, we welcomed around 12,000 to 15,000 Russians.
We have had a visa waiver with Russia since 2012, so we saw an increase in Russian arrivals in the years following. But then the financial crisis affected our numbers.
We had direct charter services from the Russian Far East, which also affected our visit arrival numbers. After the implementation of the Russian visa waiver programme, we tripled our numbers in the following year.
Since the crisis, our numbers haven’t been there. But over the past 4 months, we’ve been seeing a month-on-month increase compared with last year. We can see that the rouble is somewhat stabilising, so we are seeing more and more visitors coming back to Guam.
Of course, the majority of our visitors come from the Far East region – so we have a lot to do here in Moscow in the European heart of Russia. That’s why we are committed to coming back to MITT, as it’s the biggest travel show in Moscow, to continue to create awareness of Guam as a US destination that has visa-free access to Russia.

You said that the numbers were healthy, fell with the crisis, and now they are getting back. Is it the same people coming back? Are you seeing a lot of repeat visitors?
We do exit surveys, so we can see that there are repeat visitors. We are also seeing new visitors to Guam, because they have heard about Guam as we have been promoting the country so much in the Far East. But maybe because of the crisis, their travel plans were on hold.
But now with the economy stabilising, I think they are slowly coming back. For four consecutive months, the numbers have been positive compared to the previous year. 

What is the structure of the market for Russia? Is it packages or independent travel?
We work heavily with our travel agents in the Far Eastern region. We’ve noticed that there are a few independent travellers, but it is mostly packages and tour agents. We work very closely with them in Vladivostok and the Far East; we do workshops across the whole region where we do a Guam-product update presentation to them every year.
For Moscow, we try to develop more relationships with the travel agents here. Because our main office is in Vladivostok, we try to do a lot of online promotion. We do an online travel agent event, which targets agents in this region, which will be coming up in the autumn.

How would a tourist from Moscow get to Guam?
We flew to Moscow via Seoul. Guam has a lot of direct connections with Asian countries – Seoul is just 4 hours away, Japan is about 3 and half hours, while Hong Kong is about 4 hours. We also have direct flights with Taiwan and the Philippines. So as long as you can connect via those destinations, we have daily flights from there.

Do most of your tourists come from these Asian countries?
Yes, our top two markets are Japan and Korea. They jointly account for about 90% of Guam’s visitor arrivals. That has to do with their close proximity, while the cost of travel is lower. Guam has direct flights to and from those countries daily, so prices are more competitive.

Are they any new developments in Guam’s travel sector that you would like your Russian visitors to know about?
Guam is a very safe, friendly US destination – I don’t think a lot of people know that in Moscow. Guam is very, very new in Moscow so I think we still need to share the message that Guam is a US territory that is visa free.
We are also duty free, so no taxes on shopping. We noticed that a lot of Russian visitors spend several weeks in Guam and shop a lot, so we want to get that message out.
We are a very safe destination. We notice lots of Russian tourists bring their families along, because they feel safe on Guam.
And in terms of new developments, tourism is our number one economy. This means that for certain parts of the year, we are experiencing maximum capacity. So we are developing new opportunities for hotels. We have one that currently under construction, but we are looking for investors from around the world to build hotels in Guam.
A lot of exciting things are happening because of the growth in tourism. Last fiscal year, we reached 1.5 million visitors, which was our highest number in history. So we need more room to accommodate this growing number.