Guam Tourists Continue to Arrive Despite Nuclear Threat
Following accelerating tensions between the U.S. and North Korea, leadership from North Korea threatened to launch missiles toward the island of Guam, a U.S. territory in the Western Pacific.
Despite this threat, tourists have not been deterred from visiting the island paradise, and U.S. President Donald Trump told the governor of Guam earlier this month that the threat might even increase interest in the region.
“I have to tell you, you have become extremely famous all over the world," Trump told Gov. Eddie Baza Calvo over the phone, in a video that Calvo shared online.
“They are talking about Guam and they are talking about you. I can say this – you are going to go up, like, tenfold with the expenditure of no money," Trump said.
While it's unclear whether a nuclear threat will actually increase tourism, visitors to the island do not seem deterred as of yet.
The majority of visitors to Guam are from South Korea or Japan, both of which are in closer proximity to North Korea than the island territory, making the threat feel less acute, according to industry experts.
"It seems North Korea racks up tension once or twice every year, and travelers have become insensitive about it," Won Hyung-jin, an official from a South Korean tourism agency, told the Associated Press.
Tourism is vital to Guam's GDP, with some 1.5 million annual visitors accounting for 50 percent of the island's economy, The Independent reported.
Exposure on television showing images of the island's beautiful beaches and turquoise waters could increase interest in the region, but some experts were skeptical of Trump's "tenfold" claim.
“Sure, we will have individuals from outside of our region that will see images of the island and comment on how beautiful it is, and some may even take the extra step to explore travel opportunities to the island. However, the perception of safety is still a consideration for many travelers," Fred Schumann, an international tourism expert at University of Guam, told The Independent.