TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Palau is planning to open up for tourism next month starting with Taiwan, Palauan Ambassador to Taiwan Dilmei Louisa Olkeriil told Taiwan News on Tuesday (Aug. 25).
As the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic continues, Palau, one of Taiwan’s Pacific Island allies, has not gone unscathed. Despite not having a single confirmed case of COVID-19, the nation’s tourism industry — its primary source of revenue — has come to a standstill, leading to economic woes.
Currently, there are two chartered China Airlines flights per month that carry only essential workers, personal, and medical patients between Taiwan and Palau.
According to Ambassador Olkeriil, the Pacific Island nation has received an annual 150,000 to 200,000 tourists in recent years, but this year’s pandemic has changed everything. However, things may be looking up in the near future.
As both Taiwan and Palau have so far been able to mitigate the severe effects of coronavirus, there has been discussion of opening up tourism between the two nations. The ambassador stated that she has been in touch with Palau tourism authorities and stayed in contact with Taiwanese travel agencies to discuss the possibility, hoping to revive Palau’s tourism industry.
She also said that both China Airlines and EVA Air have been making preparations to resume the three and a half hour flights between the two countries.
The ambassador and many other Palauan government officials realize the importance of resuming tourism as soon as possible, which is why the nation is scrambling to come up with concrete measures and policies to officially re-establish more travel links with Taiwan.
Ambassador Olkeriil said that Palaun President Thomas Remengesau Jr. had recently written a letter to President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) suggesting that the length of quarantine be mutually shortened to five days. “No tourist wants to go through that,” Olkeriil remarked, referring to the standard quarantine period of 14 days.
Taiwanese authorities have agreed to the reduced quarantine duration, but Ambassador Olkeriil mentioned that there has yet to be any document to make it official.
Though the ambassador acknowledged the risks and dangers of the pandemic, she emphasized that “Taiwan and Palau must be practical” when deciding on safety measures before tourism is opened up. Furthermore, she said that Palau needs to accept the fact that it will have coronavirus cases “sooner or later.”
According to Olkeriil, there are many existing amenities and accommodations to make Taiwanese feel at home. She mentioned that there are two or three Taiwanese owned 5-star hotels as well as multiple Taiwanese restaurants for those with less adventurous taste buds.
The ambassador pointed out that many Palauans enjoyed traveling to Taiwan to immerse themselves in the hustle and bustle of urban life and shop for cooking equipment, such as rice cookers.
When asked the best time to visit Palau, Olkeriil suggested either October or April so as to avoid the rainy season.
During this slump in tourism, there has been a silver lining, Olkeriil commented, which is that Palau’s marine life and natural vegetation have rejuvenated since no travelers have been disturbing the country’s natural environment.
In spite of the dire circumstances of the pandemic, Palau has managed to avoid severe effects, albeit it has not gotten off scot-free. Nevertheless, the ambassador has expressed optimism about the nation’s plan to begin a return to normalcy by resuming tourism with Taiwan.
For more Palau tourist information, click here.