Palau and other Pacific Island countries will need to give “serious consideration” to diversifying industries given the absence of tourists due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Glynis Miller, Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat Pacific Trade Commissioner to New Zealand told Pacific reporters on Tuesday that Palau has great potential to strengthen its fisheries as a thriving industry/ 

“I think that for Palau, your biggest industry is the tourism sector and I think that until borders are reopened, Palau like most other Pacific island countries will need to give serious consideration to diversifying and making commitments by governments into other industries that would benefit and provide jobs and employment,” she said.

She said this can also be said to other nations that are tourism reliant.

“One of the Pacific island leaders made a statement about putting all of their eggs in one basket and making reference to the heavy reliance on the tourism industry by their country.    And the same could be said for other countries that used to have vibrant and strong tourism sectors. I think for Palau, the other potential is Fisheries and services.”

But while diversification is easier said than done, Ms. Miller said it takes government commitment to diversify and it would need all sectors in the nation to work together. 

“But it is not a quick fix because a lot of commitments will need to be made by the government, by NGOs, by the private sector and the Chamber of Commerce, by development agencies like Asian Development Bank and others that are stationed in Palau to come together in a roundtable discussion with the Government to identify what the priorities are for Palau,” she said.

According to a recent the United States and Department of Interior  (DOI)  economic assessment of Palau, due to border closure, the nation is projected to experience a 51 percent reduction of tourists, with a total expected of about 44,075 visitors, and a further 89 percent reduction in the fiscal year 2021.

The reduction in tourists is expected to translate to a 22.3 percent decline in GDP and a loss of 3,128 jobs, primarily in the private sector. It also anticipates a $40 million fiscal deficit.

Ms. Miller said the Suva-based Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat can assist Palau in diversifying its industry but first there is a need for the nation to determine its priorities.

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