Back in the day there were two hotels on Tumon Bay: The Hilton and a Japanese hotel named the Dai Ichi. The Hilton opened up in 1972 and we went there several times that year to listen to our favorite piano player Romy Poblete at the soon-to-be famous Tree Bar while we sipped on an exotic drink called a Tropical Itch. We also frequented the Dai Ichi in those days, especially when we felt like dancing. Well, the Hilton has gone through a couple of ownership changes in the last 40 years but it is still there. And it is still operated by Hilton Hotels & Resorts. Romy was still playing there in 2004 but we couldn’t find him anywhere this year.
The Dai Ichi went bankrupt about 13 years ago and the hotel was acquired by the Tan Holding Company. When the Tan family reopened the place in 2006 after some extensive remodeling they named it the Fiesta Resort Guam.
One third of the Hilton belonged to Edward Calvo and another third belonged to the Jones and Guerrero Company. TWA, the airlines that owned Hilton in those days, owned the other third. They sold out to DaVinci (a combined American-Japanese investing company) in 2002. Then DaVinci sold the resort to Ken Corp, the huge Japanese real estate empire, in 2007. PHR Ken Micronesia Inc., a subsidiary of Ken Corp, now owns five of the major hotels on Guam: the Hilton, the Nikko, the Hyatt Regency. the Pacific Island Club and the Sheraton Laguna. And they are planning another luxury hotel to be located between the Nikko and the Lotte and to be opened by 2018. It looks like Ken Corp is helping the Guam Visitors Bureau meet their goal of 10,000 hotel rooms on Guam by 2020!
The Tan Holding Company has its origins in the family’s Hong Kong apparel business. Some members of the Tan family moved to Guam in the 1970s and by the 1980s the company was intrenched both in Guam and in the CNMI (Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands). A Democratic congressman from California named George Miller fought for 16 years to take down the Republican Party corruption that allowed human trafficking and Tan family sweat shops to prosper on Saipan. He finally won his battle when the Jack Abramoff-Tom DeLay scandal finally broke in 2006 (Abramoff, a lobbyist for the CNMI, was sent to prison for four years; DeLay, the former Republican House Majority Leader, was forced to resign from Congress) and the Tans were forced to close their sweat shops.
Over the decades the Tan Holding Company has expanded to include airlines (Asia Pacific), shipping (CTSI Logistics, Marianas Express), tuna fishing (Luen Thai Fishing), and newspapers (the Saipan Tribune). And there’s a Fiesta Resort on Saipan, too, along with a couple of other hotels. The Tan garment factories that once resided on Saipan, by the way, have been relocated to Vietnam and Cambodia. Several members of the Tan family have graduated from the University of Guam and the family patriarch, Tan Siu Lin, has an honorary doctor of law degree from there. The Tan Holding Foundation, recently renamed the Tan Siu Lin Foundation, has donated a million dollars to the UOG’s 60th Anniversary Capital Campaign.
My sister-in-law invited my whole family to the Fiesta’s World Cafe buffet lunch one day during our stay in Guam in April 2015. There’s something for everyone at this international buffet. I settled for Mexican while most of the others tried various kinds of seafood, mostly with Oriental flavors. The large dessert spread was a big hit for all but especially for my grandkids and their grandfather.
After lunch I strolled around the pool and beach areas and took these pictures:
A bartender at the Hilton Hawaiian Village invented the Tropical Itch in the 1950s and somehow it made its way to the Hilton on Guam by the 1970s. We wandered over to the Hilton Tree Bar one evening on our most recent trip to Guam this year looking for Romy but encountered instead some very loud rap music. We retreated to Roy’s Lounge to listen to a much quieter duo sing their ballads and play their guitars. And I asked for a Tropical Itch but neither the waitress nor the bartender had ever heard of the drink! (sigh) So I had a Mai Tai.
Here’s a bonus for those of you who have read all the way to the end of this posting: click here to see the recipe for a Tropical Itch. Cheers!