ON SATURDAY, Governor Calvo returned from what appears to have been a successful mission to Japan aimed at increasing the not only number of tourists coming to Guam, but also the number of Japanese companies making direct investments here. In the message he presented last Friday in the Variety, the governor correctly pointed out that Guam cannot just sit back and wait for the buildup to answer all of our economic problems. In his words, “We need to be masters of our own destiny. ...We want more Japanese tourists coming to Guam and spending their money. More than that, we want more Japanese companies from different industries to bring their capital to Guam, set up shop, help small businesses, and provide more opportunities to our workforce. We want to build industries beyond tourism and the military.”
I think the governor is on the right track with this, and applaud him for his efforts. While countries such as China and Russia are likely to play a greater role in Guam’s economy in the years to come (especially if the visa waiver program is approved), Japan remains our most import source of tourist dollars, and probably our best target for direct investment as well.
Regular readers of the Variety might recall that, before coming to Guam and assuming the post of International News Editor for the Variety, I lived in Japan for more than 25 years. In that time, I worked with a wide variety of Japanese companies, governmental agencies, and organizations, started several businesses of my own, and learned to speak Japanese fluently. I think I can honestly say that I also became very familiar with Japanese culture, ways of thinking, and ways of doing business. Drawing on this experience, in the weeks to come, the Variety would like to offer a series of comments and suggestions on how individuals, businesses, organizations and government agencies might be able to improve the way they welcome Japanese visitors ... and attract potential Japanese investors.
Let’s start today with one simple, but important tip for stores of every type, from supermarkets to small shops: Make sure that ALL of your products have the prices clearly labeled!
When my wife and I moved to Guam from Japan, we were surprised to see how often even the best stores on the island fail to label the prices of all their products. For us, this can be a little irritating but it’s really no big deal, since we can easily ask one of the clerks to check it for us. For Japanese guests, however, it’s a different matter. With rare exceptions, they are not very confident in their English, and are very unlikely to ask the price. So shopkeepers, if you haven’t bothered to mark the price of something on your shelves, there is very little chance one of your Japanese customers will buy it.
What’s worse, such oversights are virtually unheard of in Japan; and so on an unconscious emotional level, most Japanese tend to regard them as examples of sloppy management that doesn’t care about its customers. That is probably not true, but it is nonetheless the feeling they are likely to come away with, and it’s going to make it less likely that they will return to your store ... or to Guam!
David Jay Morris is the International News Editor of Marianas Variety-Guam.