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Bureau of Tourism will be unveiling a booking portal in October for half day and full day tour activities for four states conducting community based eco-tourism with trained guides.

The portal which will be called Babeldaob Community Eco-Tourism experience (BCET) and it will be targeting eco conscious travelers, since it was developed with cooperation from the Sasakawa Peace Foundation. The four states will be Aimeliik, Ngardmau, Ngaraard, and Ngatpang.

BCET essentially allows potential visitors to book directly with the community representatives.

Director of Tourism Kevin Mesebeluu said, “After 3 years of tour development and extensive training; Aimeliik, Ngardmau, Ngaraard, and Ngatpang are the four states that made it to this stage out of the original 9 participants.”

The project looks to connect existing points of interest in those states, including unique species and stories, sites and natural wonders, without building new infrastructure.

The tours on average cost $250 per day, which includes the tour, food, associates permit, and accommodation.

“Participants can opt out of accommodations; however, they are encouraged to stay in those communities for a richer experience,” Mesebeluu said.

Post the launch VIP’s, State and National representatives will be given complimentary tours to showcase the work by the community members in creating tour packages.

From November to January, the BCET project has booked tours from Japan and Taiwan.

Mesebeluu said, “During this time, the experts that trained the state tour guides, all of them expert guides in Japan, will fly to Palau for a final review and improvement of the tours.”

He added, “We foresee more Japanese tourists, but specific to the eco tour sites.”

Mesebeluu made it clear that It is open to all visitors regardless of origin or nationality, but the initial trial run was conducted earlier this year with a group from Japan.

The projects next step is to host a workshop for community members who will be preparing the meals for the visitors.

About 30 participants will join a two-day workshop conducted by Public Health. The participants will learn food handling practices and will receive permits at the end.

“Hygiene and proper food handling are one of the many requirements for the quality of experience that the visitors expect,” Mesebeluu said.

In past few months, Palau has experienced a decline in visitors with 13,752 less arrivals till the month of July when compared to the year 2018.

Due to the dip in arrivals, several restaurant owners have complained about the crunch in business activities.

Even though less compared to last year, Chinese visitors remain to be high in numbers.

However, many restaurant owners believe that Chinese visitors mostly come to Palau on business visits and don’t end up going to different restaurants while Japanese visit with a purpose of tourism. (By Eshan Kalyanikar)