Q. Briefly tell us about yourself and what are your roles at the Guam Visitor Bureau (GVB)?My name is Carl T.C. Gutierrez and I am a former governor of Guam. I have worked closely with the Guam Visitor Bureau in the 1990’s to build up our tourism industry.
Under my administration, tourism thrived and broke records with over one million visitors a year. We reimagined the tourist capital of Tumon with then General Manager Gerry Perez to create Pleasure Island as a long-term attraction that both local and visitors enjoyed for over 20 years.
This time around, I’m now the President and CEO of GVB and Gerry is my vice president. We’re looking to rebuild our tourism industry once again in the face of this current global pandemic.
What I enjoy most about working at GVB is connecting with the different people that are overseas to share what is so great about Guam.
Q, Do you think Guam is an underrated island and if so, why is Guam often overlooked by international tourists?
I don’t think it’s a matter of potential visitors overlooking Guam. It’s a matter of spreading the word that Guam is open for business and welcomes everyone to its shores. There are many sand and sea destinations that play up the tropical island identity.
But what makes Guam so unique from other destinations is our 4,000 years old Chamorro Culture.
The Håfa Adai spirit is embedded in everything that we do, and our world famous hospitality draws people to learn more about our people, language, cuisine, and customs.
Q. What are you plans to bring in more visitors and expand air travel routes to the island?
We are currently in the middle of talking with different airline partners in our source markets and seek to expand our source markets as travel demand improves.
Our core markets come first as they all have long-standing relationships from business and cultural standpoints. The North America market has been a major market with our visiting friends and family segment and the military travelers.
However, we are also actively lobbying our federal partners in Washington DC to get the Republic of the Philippines on the Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Program, so Filipinos can come and go freely between the Philippines and Guam without waiting a month for their visas to clear.
Tens of thousands of Filipinos live, work, and raise their families in Guam and most of these residents are either naturalized or were born US citizens. In fact, many US citizens are born to Filipino parents in Guam.
But we also welcome hundreds of guest workers every year. Filipino culture is firmly embedded in our island after hundreds of years of trade and travel between our two destinations, enriching Chamorro culture and very likely even predating the 16th-19th century Spanish galleon trade due to our common Austronesian ancestry.
Working with our airline partners, Malaysia, another country on the Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver program, is also a promising source market.
Q. What are some of the most notable changes you have seen growing up in Guam?
I am a World War II survivor that was born and raised in Guam. I have seen so much happen in the course of more than 80 years. The evolution of our travel industry is one of the aspects I have witnessed and participated in.
Q. What are your suggested itineraries for a week-long visit to Guam?
The best resource to plan your trip to Guam is to go to our consumer website – visitguam.com and map out what you want to do during your stay.
Q. Chamorro cuisine is known for its deliciousness and generous portions. What are some must-try Chamorro dishes that you would recommend to readers
I keep it simple. A fiesta plate with red rice, barbecue chicken and ribs, Chicken Kelaguen and some fried parrot fish can really please your taste buds.
Q. In your opinion, what are some of the main challenges facing the tourism industry in Guam?
The main challenge at this time is helping the tourism industry recover from the pandemic.
Our projections indicate it will take between two to three years before we reach pre-pandemic levels in terms of visitor arrivals.
However, we are working with hotels, restaurants, airlines, travel agents, and other businesses to encourage recovery initiatives and campaigns. It will take time, but we will get there.
Q. Finally, is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about Guam? And how would you sum up Guam in a few words?
Guam is not like any island paradise you have experienced. Come visit us and learn more about our 4,000 years old Chamorro culture.
Take a break and relax in our warm ocean water, make friends with the locals, and eat some of the best food you’ll ever taste. We’ll see you here soon!