Palau and Taiwan are working together to improve the travel bubble which has suffered a setback following a low demand from Taiwanese tourists, with the April 14 China Airlines flight traveling to the nation with empty seats. 

But in a statement on Wednesday, President Surangel Whipps Jr. was more optimistic that the travel bubble will resume and that the challenges that include high cost and COVID-restrictions will be resolved. 

“The Government of the Republic of Palau continues to work closely with the Government of the Government of the Republic of China (Taiwan) to improve the sterile corridor,” Whipps said.

He said that his office had been made aware of the April 17 flight cancellation, which he also attributed to Tropical Storm Typhoon Surigae, which could limit tourists’ activities while here.

However, news report in Taiwan attributed the flight cancellation to reduced interests from travelers to take the flight.  

It cost a tourist at least $3,000 to take a 3-day holiday in Palau and upon returning to Taiwan, travelers have to follow strict COVID rules.

Whipps said that he is “pleased to announce that Taiwan’s quarantine requirements have eased up, he also said costs had been decreased.

The travel bubble launched on April 1 was touted as the model of safe travel by many, with inaugural trip attracting at least 100 tourists to the country, but the succeeding bookings dwindled, with the last three flights combined only bringing 63 passengers. 

 A report from The Guardian quoted one of the agencies contracted to run the tours, Phoenix travel, that while they have inquiries about future trips, “the momentum is not as good as expected”.

“The fare is higher than normal, plus the cost of two PCR tests, and the inconvenience of health management after returning home are the reasons why most travellers maintain a wait-and-see attitude,” the spokesperson said.

 President Whipps considered the travel bubble as a “ray of light” sparking hope of revitalizing the economy hit hard by the pandemic. 

 “We seek everyone’s support and patience as we continue to address challenges and improve the sterile corridor. Challenges help us improve customer experience and increase demand,” said Whipps.

“During this trying time, the private sector’s support is ever more important.”

 Eva Airlines had shown interest on flying to Palau from Kaohsiung, but reports say with the low demand, the airline is putting off its plan until the demand improves. 

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