By: L.N. Reklai
November 30, 2017 (Koror, Palau) “The recent directive from China’s National Tourism Association that bans Chinese tour operators from booking tours to Palau is an existing policy that has been in place prior to the hike in PRC visitor numbers to Palau in 2014,” stated a press release by Palau tourism industry representative.
The latest NTA directive named Palau and Vatican as destinations prohibited to the people of China and ban tour agencies from selling the destinations.
“Palau has never been part of the NTA’s list of 127 “approved destinations,” added Palau industry press release.
Palau had cut down number of charter flights from PRC at the end of 2015 in order to reduce the dominance of Chinese market and pushing for a more diverse tourism market.
Tourism numbers since then have been declining. According to industry press release, this is due to various factors including air access, trends in visitor expectations, global economics as well as geopolitics.
Palau’s tourism industry continue to express strong support for more diverse market as well as promotion of high value visitor and says arrivals will depend on “strong destination marketing”.
Commentaries and opinions have been expressed in various international media of China’s motive for the prohibition.
Taiwan’s Strategy Research Association Fabrizio Bozzato commented that stopping tourists to Palau was China’s intention to put economic pressure on the government of Palau so that it might reconsider its ties with Taiwan.
Others consider such statement was in response to Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen’s announcement to increase number of direct flights from Taiwan to Palau.
Even Taiwan’s Foreign Minister David Lee expressed in a Legislative hearing that the relationship between Palau and Taiwan could be described as “green turning yellow” light, or under threat. He added that the relationship has been “headache” for his ministry but the problems are resolvable.
President Remengesau in number of public presentations stated that Palau’s relationship diplomatic relationship with Taiwan is based on mutual respect of democratic principles that are embodied in both countries political systems. At the 106th National Celebration for Taiwan this year, Remengesau portrayed the relationship in a familial sense saying, “We are not only diplomatic friends, we are diplomatic brothers.” [/restrict]