Tourism is major contributor to Palau’s economy representing 81% of Palau’s total export of $137.1 million in 2018, according to a study from Graduate School USA, Hawaii.  Its direct share of Palau’s GDP in the same year was $58.9 million but all these numbers have shown decrease over past three and half years.

The numbers show consistent decline in visitor arrivals from 138k in 2016 to 122k in 2017 and 106k in 2018.  Palau Visitors Arrival statistics show 76,807 arrivals as of this October compared to 93,456 same time last year.  Given the current trend in monthly arrivals over the last 10 months, Palau is projected to reach around 90,000 visitors by end of this year.

Number of factors are said to contribute to drop in visitor arrivals.Most notably mentioned is the reduction in number of direct flights to Palau on consistent basis with particular emphasis on the loss of direct flights between Japan and Palau, which to date has not been filled after Delta Airlines pulled out of the route in May of 2018.

In addition to Delta Airlines pullout, number of charter flights providing direct services from China to Palau were cut due to financial pressures placed by China’s policy prohibiting marketing of Palau in China.

MPIIC Minister Charles Obichang at November 13 press conference announced that Skymark Airlines, Japan’s domestic airline, has confirmed to start directs flights between Japan and Palau at the end of January after nearly a year of negotiation.  Although this initial flight schedule will only be for first quarter of 2020.

In addition to Skymark Airlines, T-Way Airline, a Korean airline, is also requesting to fly between Japan and Palau within the first quarter of 2020.  China Airlines is also planning to fly starting January of 2020 out of Hiroshima, Japan to Palau.

“I can’t say how many visitors will be coming at least in the first quarter of 2020 but I believe we will see an increase based on the number of airlines seeking to fly at this time,” expressed Minister Obichang in response to how many arrivals are anticipated based on applications.

Obichang cites efforts Palau has done to woo airlines to establish scheduled services to Palau saying that one of the ways they address the issue is through the public-private sector partnership that has been established.  “Our partners with their networks and connections will help us market Palau and access airlines.”

Other airlines currently bringing in the visitors include Korean Air and Asiana Airlines, both originating in Incheon, Korea.

China Airlines currently flies direct Taiwan-Palau flights four times a week with plans to add Taiwan-Japan-Palau route next year.

United Airlines continue to provide scheduled services from Guam to Palau, Palau to Manila and Manila, Palau.  LANMEI and PAPA airlines, both provide direct charter services from Macau, China to Palau. (L.N. Reklai)