Tourists are not being deterred from visiting the Pacific island of Guam, despite North Korean threats to drop bombs close to the US territory.
The island, which forms part of the Micronesian archipelago, attracted approximately 1.5 million international visitors last year, the vast majority of which came from Japan and South Korea. But the Associated Press (AP) reported one large South Korean travel agency as saying that the recent war of words between Pyongyang and Washington DC hasn’t led to a series of cancellations.
“It seems North Korea racks up tension once or twice every year, and travellers have become insensitive about it,” Won Hyung-jin, an official from Modetour was quoted saying. His company sends about 5,000 travellers to Guam every month, mostly on package tours.
Guam, which has a population of 160,000, is only about three hours by plane from Tokyo and Seoul. The number of South Korean travellers in particular has grown recently, mainly because of the launch of a series of new flights by the country’s low-cost airlines. These include Jin Air, Jeju Air, T’way Airlines and Air Busan.
Japanese demand is expected to be boosted later this year when HK Express, another LCC, launches direct flights to Guam from Nagoya. Korean Air and JAL also fly to the island, while US carriers Delta and United Airlines both operate services between Guam and Japan.
Antonio Muna, vice president of Guam Visitors Bureau, told the AP that this airlift helped boost inbound arrival figures to a 20-year-high in July 2017. He added that he expects another strong month in August, with North Korean threats unlikely to impact arrivals from its two main source markets.
“Japan and [South] Korea make over 90% of our arrivals, and they’re much closer to North Korea than Guam is,” Muna was quote saying.
President Trump called Guam’s Republican governor last week to reassure him of US support for the island territory. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had threatened to land missiles “near” Guam, but the president warned of a strong response to any attack.
“Let’s see what he does with Guam. He does something in Guam, it will be an event the likes of which nobody has seen before, what will happen in North Korea,” President Trump said.