The island of Guam, an unincorporated U.S. territory, faces unique challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 21,000 people work in the territory's tourism industry, which accounted for 35 to 40% of Guam's Gross Domestic Product in 2020.
Guam has undergone three COVID-19 case spikes since March 2020, largely driven by visitors carrying the virus. In response, the territory has enacted restrictions to stem the spread of COVID-19.
G4S, a private security firm, has secured the travel industry on the island since 2004. In 2014, the firm began providing Visitor Safety Officers (VSOs) and Beach Safety Officers (BSOs) who carry out a range of concierge and safety services for both residents and visitors in Tumon, a tourism hotspot on the island.
“Today, Visitor Safety Officers walk beaches and byways, serve checkpoints and cycle across Tumon. They take immediate corrective action when things go wrong, monitor suspicious activity, and actively engage visitors, drivers, beachgoers, businesses and emergency responders as needed,” said Carl T.C. Gutierrez, Guam Visitors Bureau (GVB) President and CEO.
VSOs provide a range of services including traffic management and road crossing assistance, they provide directions and help to recover lost property. They also respond to safety and security issues ranging from damaged public property, to loitering and public intoxication.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a range of new challenges to Guam’s tourism industry, including the loss of visitors in 2020 and the safe and gradual return of tourists during 2021. The officers of the VSO program adapted quickly to the changing needs of GVB to serve the community in protecting the parks and beaches of Tumon.
In 2020, VSOs responded to more than 12,000 requests for assistance from Guam residents, giving advice related to COVID-19 on social distancing and how to safely use public parks and beaches.