Press Secretary Olkeriil Kazuo told the media that global factors are at play to the declining tourist arrivals in Palau and said that although tourism revenues are going down, the country remains to be among the top destinations for ocean activities.

Kazuo, however, did not specify the global factors affecting Palau’s tourism but instead shared Palau President Tommy Remengesau, Jr.’s strategy of putting emphasis on attracting freely independent travelers (FIT) and cutting down charter flights and reducing package tours.

Kazuo said that they are currently working on “niche activities” that attract diverse groups of tourists but he also acknowledged the challenges they are facing in “getting things done.”

The press secretary said that Palau needs to bring more flights and create products for tourists.

“We always put into consideration [the global factors] and you always notice that the visit of [Japan] Foreign Minister [Taro] Kono and [Japan Prime Minister’s Special Advisor Kentaro Sonoura] indicated that they are pushing hard on getting back Japan direct flights,” Kazuo said.

Japan is among Palau’s top tourism markets but there are currently no regular direct flights servicing routes between the two nations.

Kazuo also expressed optimism that Vietnam’s air carrier, Vietjet, will provide the country another source of tourists from Southeast Asia.

Pacific Note recently reported that tourism forecast for Palau sees tourist arrivals declining to less than 100,000 by the end of 2019 – the first time to happen since 2010.

The Palau Visitors Authority (PVA) statistics also showed there are only 55,334 tourists in Palau from January to July this year compared to the 69,086 tourists that visited the country last year for the same period.

PVA’s data shows that Palau’s tourist arrivals rose to 163,909 in 2015 and has since gradually reduce to 106,303 in 2018. (Rhealyn C. Pojas)