TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The travel bubble between Taiwan and its ally Palau seems to have burst, as the number of Taiwanese travelers to the Pacific nation has significantly decreased since the bubble was reinstated in August.
With very few bookings, Taiwan’s national carrier, China Airlines, has suspended all its November flights to Palau, CNA reported.
The carrier’s move has drawn the ire of Palau President Surangel Whipps Jr., who recently criticized China Airlines for not taking the Palau tourism market seriously, saying that such an attitude is poisoning the Palau market.
Taiwan People's Party (TPP) Legislator Andy Chiu (邱臣遠) expressed concern about the travel bubble’s status at a legislative hearing on Monday (Nov. 22), where Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) budget proposals for next year were discussed. Noting that Taiwan has very few allies, Chiu said the practice of travel bubbles is instrumental to Taiwan’s diplomacy and noted that the well-intended policy has instead incurred the displeasure of Palau’s president.
In response, Minister of Transportation and Communications Wang Kwo-tsai (王國材) said that China Airlines had two flights to Palau every week in August and September, with passenger load above 70% for that period. He attributed the past popularity of the route to the fact that many Taiwanese took trips to Palau to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Wang said the ministry will hold meetings with travel agencies operating the Palau route to discuss how to better market attractions in the Pacific country.
According to MOTC statistics, a total of 697 Taiwanese traveled to Palau in August, and the number of travelers reached 965 in September.
However, the number dropped to 385 in October, CNA reported, citing MOTC data.