Saturday, September 22, 2007

We shouldn't be losing to Guam

I just spent a couple days in Guam on business and pleasure. Guam has very good shopping, some very good restaurants and lots of choices, really liked the Jamaican Grill, but the diving is absolutely atrocious. The shop I went with was very professional, friendly and did their best, Sapphire Diving, but Guam, from what I saw, offers very little diving wise -- it doesn't hold a candle to Saipan diving. The island as a whole also doesn't have near the aesthetics we have. What it has is more life, more shopping and bigger and better hotels, and the ability to get there. I talked to a lot of people, and that was the essential comment, Saipan is nicer, but it is too inconvenient to get there. They also notice how we jack the prices up on them more than Guam and to the point of absurdity. The diving example is a case in point. $80 two tanks with lunch and gear. From what I was told, we are charging more along the lines of $120, which is 50 percent more.

I also visited the new Maharani in Guam, run and staffed by our Taste of India folks, and it is doing fantastically well. I had a lot more fun in Guam than I expected, but we shouldn't be getting our asses handed to us by Guam, which is happening. More on these things later.


lil_hammerhead said...

It really was all about the flights. I predicted when I first heard the news about the Continental hub being awarded to Guam, that slowly but surely this would kill off the CNMI. Sure enough one year after another, the direct flights from Japan to Saipan were stopped for a variety of excuses. Continental never once said it only makes sense to route flights through Guam, but used a variety of other reasons. Then, having ended nearly all the direct flights, they got rid of the 737 (larger plane).

It was all part of the Continental plan. In 1995 we were looking at hitting 1,000,000 tourists by the year 2000. We were already over 500,000 (maybe 600,000 can't remember)... but the 1,000,000 number was absolutely reasonable.

And then... the HUB. Continental even left the CNMI out of their one-pass promotional mailers a number of times. They were mailers that featured all of Micronesia (Palau, FSM, Marshalls and Guam), CNMI was left out. I finally took one up to the Governor's office and the two days later he was in the paper questioning Continental's motives. Continental claimed it was an oversight and that they would correct it in the future. I never saw a one-pass mailer featuring "Micronesia" again.

Yes, there are alot of things we could do to improve the visitor experience. This goes without saying. And yes, I used to hate going to Guam, but I quite enjoy it nowadays. It has improved. But the simple fact is, very few people want to take a hopper flight. Especially when Guam and the CNMI are so similar (at least to the visitors reviewing information on both).

Unless we get direct flights, or fashion ourselves into a destination that is truly very different from Guam, we are not going to have the numbers we once had. Not from Japan anyways.

Bruce A. Bateman said...

For years we took market share from Guam, now they are taking it back by default mostly. Lil hit the nail on the head with her rendition of airline woes. If they can't get here, they won't come. Baseball stadium or not.

I go there as infrequently as possible. The place seems more like Omaha with water than like Micronesia.

Travel to shop at KMart? Ludicrous.

SteeleOnSaipan said...

The word has long been that Continental considered Saipan as the hub before Guam for obvious reasons, cheaper labor, easier transit for travelers from countries w/o visa-free travel privileges, etc. The flight possibilities were endless at the time. But apparently some greedy Saipan politicos (imagine that!) demanded too much slush, childishly walked out of meetings, etc. to the point where Continental threw up its middle finger to the CNMI. Saipan's pathetic leadership has been and still remains its own worst enemy. But alas, the governor and other politicos at the time, as well as other major shareholders like UMDA and Joeten who all sold there shares to Continental, putting the stake in the heart of Air Micronesia, reportedly all still enjoy great travel perks for doing so, despite the fact that Saipan/Guam r/t's have doubled and tourism has taken a shit for everyone else. Welcome to Saipan, where it's every man for himself!