In the first of its certification workshops, the Bureau of Tourism (BOT) aims to train 200 tourism-related business and state government representatives in the Pandemic Safety Certification requirements during the last week of February, to prepare businesses to handle tourists in a “COVID-safe” way.

The Pandemic Safety Certification Program, “Safe for You”, is designed to prepare businesses in the sectors of accommodation, restaurant, and tour operation to develop contingency plans and implement measures which will reinforce proper hygiene, social-distancing, and the use of protective equipment, in ways suited to their specific sectors.

President Surangel Whipps Jr. has stressed that Palau is continually looking to open its borders “in a controlled, safe manner, with countries we know are safe”.

The certification program, organized by the members of Tri-Org, the BOT, Palau Visitors Authority (PVA), and Palau Chamber of Commerce (PCOC), along with the Palau Red Cross Society (PRCS), aims to have all businesses in the tourism industry certified by the time Palau reopens to tourists.

“This is a way to make sure that these businesses are safe to host visitors if COVID gets to Palau,” said BOT Acting Director Fabian Iyar. “But it’s also best practices to have this type of contingency plan even if there is no pandemic. So it’s important that we continue to engage the industry and share new information and methods.”

According to a press release by the BOT, the training workshops, which will each be around four hours long, will be hosted from February 22nd to the 26th at Palau Community College (PCC), and will each accommodate a maximum of 20 representatives from the tourism industry or the state governments. The process is designed so that one representative from every business only should attend one four-hour workshop suited to their specific sector. Workshops covering accommodation providers will take place on Monday and Wednesday morning and Tuesday afternoon, for food service providers on Monday and Wednesday afternoon and Tuesday morning, for tour operators on Thursday afternoon and Friday morning, and for state government representatives on Thursday morning and Friday afternoon.

18 individuals from Palau’s tourism industry have already been trained in the safety guidelines during a workshop targeted at “training the trainers”, which took place on January 18th and 19th. These trainers, along with representatives from BOT and the Palau Red Cross Society, will be in charge of leading the upcoming workshops for their specific sectors.

In order to certify their businesses, those representatives who are trained in the upcoming workshops are expected to share the guidelines and expectations with the rest of the staff from their business. Once businesses have put the required systems into place and acquired the safety materials specified in the guidelines, such as PPE’s, medical kits, and sanitizers, they will contact the BOT to receive a “spot check”, which will certify them to accommodate visitors.

The National Tourism Regulations were originally signed into law in November 2020 by former President Tommy Remengesau, requiring businesses in the tourism industry to be certified in order to handle visitors, in the event that a COVID case is detected in Palau.

Within the last month, President Whipps has pushed for the establishment of a travel bubble between Taiwan and Palau by the end of March. While the travel bubble has continually experienced setbacks, the President said that “[Palau and Taiwan] are continuing to be in talks, and are continuing to find ways that [the travel bubble] can happen”.  

According to President Whipps, many of the 3,200 vaccines which are arriving in Palau in the coming shipment will be used to vaccinate “most of the” non-government frontliners, such as restaurant and hotel operators, now that government frontliners such as healthcare and customs workers have been vaccinated.

“Those are important because if we do open in March, we want those people to be protected,” President Whipps said. 

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