Taiwanese traveler Kuo Yitting of the first group of Palau-Taiwan Travel Corridor shows her boarding pass and a report of virus antigen test before leaving Taiwan, at Taoyuan International Airport in Taoyuan, northern Taiwan, Thursday. The Palau-Taiwan Travel Corridor, allowing people to travel between the islands without a COVID-19 quarantine, has started Thursday. (AP Photo/Chiang Ying-ying)

President Surangel Whipps Jr. said Palau would continue efforts to attract more Taiwanese tourists to take part in the travel bubble.
Whipps is one of the University of Guam (UOG) Center for Island Sustainability’s conference speakers which was held Friday morning as he talked about the country’s decision to reopen tourism to Taiwanese travelers.
The president said it has not been an easy decision, but selling Palau in Taiwan during his official trip, he was inspired by the enthusiasm of the Taiwanese and hopes it continues.
“Now, our challenge is how do we convince travelers to come to visit Palau for three days, and it costs $3,000 because of all these requirements that we have.”
He said the next step is to make the system more efficient and to entice more tourists to the nation and revitalize tourism.
Whipps said that there is a PCR testing machine in development that will not only cost less, and will yield COVID-19 test results within two hours, using saliva samples, which is a lesser amount compared to the Taiwan COVID tests required from travelers for the travel bubble- costing passengers $400 per test.
Whipps said this test is being developed by iCare Dx, and the company is seeking emergency use authority approval. From U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
“They came up with a product that basically for less than a couple hundred dollars is a testing device. This is a PCR testing device,” Whipps said.
“So you now brought a PCR test down to $10. Totally affordable,” he said. “The concept is everybody gets one of these machines, you can test at your hotel room, you can test at the airport. It just makes it easier to travel and the cost comes down. Like I said, with our current regime with Taiwan it costs $400 a passenger, just for testing.”
He said that the decision to open Palau’s doors was a long process that had to involve intense discussion and trust in research and science to ensure the risk of COVID-19 infection will be minimal.
But Whipps said the COVID-19 was especially hard on the tourism sector,
“In the past year, since we opened the corridor, there were zero tourists for a whole year. That really has a negative impact on the businesses, the people, and anything that we could have done … anything that we could do to get back on track is critical,” he said.
Like Guam, he said, Palau is very tourism-dependent. (Bernadette Carreon)

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