In the wake of COVID-related border closure, domestic tourism proved to be the lifeline to an industry used to target international travelers.

Palau Visitors Authority (PVA) Board Chair, Ngirai Tmetuchl said during the COVID times, Palau’s economy relied on the newfound strength of the domestic market. 

Tmetuchl said before COVID-19, hotels, and restaurants are mostly geared towards international tourism.

‘What we learned during these COVID times, businesses started to look inward. They realized they have to survive,” Tmetuchl said.

Tnetuchl said hotels, restaurants, and dive tours started to rebuild their businesses, redirecting efforts to the local consumers. 

“There was an inward-looking focus now from the businesses. Everyone realized that we have to depend on the local economy,” he said. 

According to the 2020 Visitors Arrival Statistics report, tourist arrivals in Palau decreased by 80 percent compared to the 2019 visits. 

It said that total visitors for 2020 totaled 18,360. 

Tmetuchl said the last time the number of arrivals was that low was in the 1980s. 

Tmetuchl said travel restriction also provided businesses the opportunity to pivot to build a stronger digital economy.

He said businesses started embracing the digital economy to reposition themselves.

“Everybody migrated to digital technology…  now the fiber optic becomes a tool not only for communication but businesses from the local level,” he said.

Tmetuchl said that Facebook “became the Amazon” for Palau. From fishermen, hotels, restaurants, diving companies utilized social media to advertise their products,

Moving forward or when the borders finally open, Tmetuchl said the focus will be to attract tourism while keeping safe. (By: B. Carreon)

Palau is looking to establish a sterile corridor with Taiwan.   

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