The impact of the coronavirus fell hard on February arrivals, registering a 42 percent drop compared to the same month in 2019.

According to the latest Palau Visitors Arrivals statistics, for the month of February 2020 visitor arrivals to Palau totaled 5,613 representing a decrease of 4,162 compared to February 2019 with 9,776 visitor arrivals.

While Japan and Europe showed an increase from last month. South Korea, Taiwan, China, USA/Canada, and others showed a decrease.

The double-digit decrease was due to the travel ban imposed by Palau since Feb.1 to prevent the coronavirus from reaching Palau’s shores.

Last month Executive Order no.433 prohibited the entry of all travelers with travel history originating from or transiting through mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau within 14 days of their arrival in the Republic of Palau.

Executive Order 435 banned entry of all travelers with travel history originating from or transiting through mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau within 14 days as a Preventive Measure to Prevent Entry of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (nCoV) to Palau.

March is expected to go down even lower as United Airlines has announced that it will be reducing its flight to Palau from six times a week to four times a week.

But the impact on travel is forecasted to last even longer as the coronavirus have now spread into 145 countries including Guam, the closest neighbor of Palau.

According to the Lowly Institute, Australian think-tank tourism “is crucial for many countries in the Pacific, including Palau.

“For some, it offers one of the few opportunities for economic diversification. For others, tourism is the nation’s economic lifeblood. For Palau, Vanuatu and Fiji, it represents around 40% of GDP and often employs a significant proportion of people in formal employment.”

It said that tourism is also the main export from Palau  (86%), Vanuatu (63%), Samoa (62%), and Fiji (51%).

In a statement Sunday night, President Tommy Remengesau said that the government is working to approve measures to ease this burden of economic decline citing that he is aware of the global pandemic’s impact to the nation, specifically in the tourism industry.

President Remengesau has asked the National Emergency Committee (NEC) to meet and advise him on the next measures to be taken. (Bernadette Carreon)