There’s a surplus of vaccines in the U.S. Any American aged 12 and up who wants one can get one. Doses are even on the verge of expiring unused. So tiny Guam – which is just 212 square miles – is turning that surplus into support for its tourism industry while doing good for residents of Asia.
Guam‘s Governor and its Department of Public Health this week approved a new “Air V&V” program for visitors to book “vacation & vaccination” packages. These will include,
- transportation to and from Guam’s Antonio B. Won Pat International Airport
- three Covid-19 tests
- up to two vaccine doses
- digital vaccination records (something most Americans don’t have)
According to the program’s operating procedures, hotels are responsible for working with the Japan Guam Travel Association to manage the transfer of U.S. expats and tourists to the hotels. Visitors under the program will be quarantined on specific floors in the government quarantine hotel, the procedures state, and will be instructed not to leave the room. Visitors must pay for their meals – three per day – which will be left outside their door while in quarantine.
According to the Guam Visitors Bureau President, “This programme captures a unique demographic of travellers around the world that are tired of waiting to get vaccinated in this pandemic.” It will primarily be aimed at visitors from Asia, and in particular Japan, South Korea and the Philippines, based on airline flight availability.
Guam is a U.S. territory and it is the westernmost point in the United States. It was captured in 1898 during the Spanish-American War and ceded to the U.S. by the Treaty of Paris that year. It was occupied by Japanese forces for two and a half years during World War II. The economy there is primarily driven by the U.S. military and by tourism.
United is by far the largest airline serving Guam, with international flights to Manilia, Tokyo Narita, Palau, Chuuk, and Yap in July. Jeju Air operates to Seoul and Osaka. Other carriers operate to Seoul and Manila as well, according to airline schedule data from Cirium.
This is seen as a boon to hotels, with visitors staying on the island while they wait for mRNA vaccine second doses after testing out of quarantine, and as a boon for airlines – for United, but also for Asian carriers that are working with Guam on charter flights including China Airlines, EVA Air, Tigerair, and Starlux Airlines, as well as Philippine Airlines.
Packages can be booked through several hotels: Dusit Thani Guam Resort, Grand Plaza Hotel, Guam Reef Hotel, Hotel Nikko Guam, Hyatt Regency Guam, LeoPalace Resort, Lotte Hotel, Pacific Islands Club, Royal Orchid Hotel, and the Tsubaki Tower.
Guam’s physical positioning and flights to and from the island make it best-positioned to provide vaccines to wealthier residents of Asian countries. That actually helps balance out U.S. foreign policy, where vaccine distribution is focused on physically proximate allies and on the World Health Organization’s COVAX program.
The first group of vaccine vacationers under the program arrives today on a United Airlines charter from Taipei via Japan. Visitors can have their first shot on day two of their visit (while quarantining) and can return on day three if taking Johnson & Johnson or stay longer for Pfizer or Moderna second shots.
Vaccinating foreign tourists is in America’s interest. Some may be concerned about using taxpayer-financed vaccines to vaccinate non-citizens but that is actually one of the best strategies to protect Americans from the virus. Getting the world vaccinated quickly is how we’ll limit the virus from mutating around vaccines, and prevent travelers from bringing mutations to the U.S.
By the way Guam isn’t the first place in the U.S. to promote vaccine tourism. And vaccine tourism is what’s filling flights from Latin America to the U.S. as well. In Guam it’s ‘Air V&V’ but in Russia they call travel for the Sputnik vaccine a VACCation.