President Tommy Remengesau Jr. cautioned against a tourism boom that could pose threats to the environment, stressing that development should be sustainable to prevent  harming the industry which is the nation’s biggest economic driver.

Remengesau forecast a bright future for Palau’s tourism but too much development and tourists could overwhelm the nation.

Last week, Remengesau met with members of the Belau Tourism Association to talk about tourism and development issues.

Remenegsau said many investors; hotel development prospects are knocking on Palau’s doors.

“Anyone looking at the situation and opportunities, looking at the numbers, I can honestly tell you that the future of tourism industry is very bright, very doable,” he told members of the BTA.

He however said Palau is very selective on the kind of development it wants for Palau.

“We as the people of Palau, do we want an open sky policy or we want a manageable, sustainable growth that will bring in the quality that we need as opposed to just reaching the 500,000 or 1 million numbers,” Remengesau stated.

Remengesau said it is the policy of his administration to ensure that investors interested in developing high-end accommodations are legitimate businesses.

According to the latest Environment Quality Protection Board (EQPB) hotel development list, More than 4,000 new hotel rooms have entered and will enter Palau’s market, which will amount to more than $300 million investment for the island-nation.

Since 2013 to this year, the Environment Quality Protection Board (EQPB) has issued 14 permits for hotels, hostels, bungalows and apartelles, another four applications under review, four applications pending and while others applications are either waiting for environmental assessment approval or environmental impact assessment approval.

In 2018 alone, there are six new hotel developments applications with investments totaling close to $190 million. There are projects on the list that did not specify the cost of investments.

However, Remengessau said the numbers of hotel rooms if approved are too high.

“Those 4,000 rooms that are not going to happen during my administration,’ Remengesau said.

The president said those hotel room numbers are planned development presented by potential investors that don’t necessarily mean that it will be permitted construction.

He stressed anew that unsustainable development could pose a potential threat to the environment. (Bernadette H. Carreon)