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Guam tourism sees silver lining in North Korean threats

Hagatna, United States | AFP | Tourism-dependent Guam is looking to cash in on its new-found fame as a North Korean missile target, tapping an unlikely promotional opportunity to attract visitors to the idyllic island and prove that all publicity is good publicity.

Pyongyang’s threats to launch four missile strikes near the US territory has stirred global curiosity in the remote Pacific destination, with it trending heavily on search engines as social media users wondered, “what is Guam?”

Although Guam hosts two US military installations and 6,000 US soldiers, making it the target of North Korea’s wrath, tourism authorities are keen to dispel any impression of danger to the tranquil island and its secluded beaches.

“The circumstances are unfortunate but this is a good opportunity for us to educate the world about Guam and our culture, about where we are, and who we are,” said Josh Tyquiengco, marketing director at Guam Visitors Bureau, the official agency for the island.

“Guam is more than a military base. We are a safe family destination. We reassure potential visitors that we continue to be a safe… place to visit,” Tyquiengco told AFP.

Despite North Korea’s threats to prepare plans within days that would surround Guam with “enveloping fire”, fears of a potential attack have not deterred tourists from visiting Guam, he said.

“We heard about a few booking cancellations from South Korea, but it’s too minimal to affect the industry,” he said.

Governor Eddie Calvo, in a briefing late Friday, said any attack on Guam “would be met with overwhelming force”, pointing out that the biggest threat facing the island was the looming typhoon season.

“With that, everybody should conduct their lives like business as usual. It’s the weekend. Go out, have a good time, enjoy the beaches tomorrow and live your lives.

“At this point, there are thousands of tourists coming in on a daily basis… from Japan, (South) Korea, Taiwan and China and other areas. It is our belief that they should enjoy themselves here.”

As aircraft after aircraft — packed with tourists — landed Friday at Guam’s international airport, the latest visitors to the island appeared untroubled by the prospect of missile strikes.

Sun Doojin, who arrived with her husband and two-year-old daughter on a flight from Seoul, responded with an emphatic “no” when asked if she was concerned about an attack during her visit.

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