When the North Korean regime of Kim Jong Un threatened to fire a nuclear weapon toward the U.S. territory of Guam, President Donald Trump predicted that the added attention from the threat would increase tourism to the tiny island in the Pacific.
And some tourism officials agree. But they don’t think the increase will be substantial.
After the threat from North Korea, Trump spoke to Guam Gov. Eddie Calvo last week and not only assured him that the island would be protected by the U.S. military, but also encouraged him to consider the benefits of the showdown.
“They are talking about Guam and they’re talking about you.” And when it comes to tourism, the president added, “I can say this: You’re going to go up, like, tenfold with the expenditure of no money.”
Guam, an island known for its white-sand beaches and coral reef snorkeling, broke a 20-year record for visitation in July, with nearly 133,000 visitors. That surpasses the previous high visitation mark set in 1997 and represents an 8.1 percent increase from the same month in 2016. Tourism represents about 50 percent of the island’s economy.
The two biggest sources of visitors to Guam in July were Japan and South Korea, according to the Guam Visitors Bureau. Japanese visitors made up 39 percent of all visitors while South Korean tourists made up 46 percent of visitors in July. U.S. visitors made up only 6 percent of all visitors.
Travel and tourism experts say it is possible that the attention brought to Guam by North Korea’s threat could result in more visitors.
In fact, the travel site Hipmunk.com reported a 438 percent increase in searches of flights from the U.S. to Guam from Aug. 8 to 13, compared with the week earlier.
Bjorn Hanson, a professor at New York University’s Tisch Center for Hospitality and Tourism, said, “Guam has gained substantial awareness and added curiosity, and the attention could be very favorable.”
But experts say it is highly unlikely that the North Korean threat — even after it is resolved — will boost visitation tenfold, as predicted by Trump.
Henry H. Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst with Atmosphere Research Group, noted that flights from the U.S. to Guam are 17 hours long and are typically more expensive that flying to Hawaii.
“I’m not sure there will be a rush of tourists from America or elsewhere,” he said.