Efforts to recover from tourism devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic are pushing for innovative solutions and greater reliance on social media platforms to promote the country. These efforts are pushing the industry itself to adjust and adapt to the change.
Availing of the Tourism Ambassador Program that it started before the pandemic, Palau Visitors Authority is depending on Palauans living in the different States in the United States to promote Palau at tourism trade shows happening in their cities.
“We just send them the brochures, the trade show paraphernalia like trade show displays and they do the promotion for us,” said PVA Chairman and Minister of HRCTD Ngirai Tmetuchl.
Tmetuchl said the Palauans overseas are quite proud and excited to represent their country and contribute their time to the effort. “There are many Palauans across many States that are doing this and we are very grateful for their support.”
Going from over 90,000 visitors in one year to zero in the next resulted in about a 35 million dollar loss of revenue to the government and this, in turn, resulted in a reduction of funding for marketing Palau as a destination to potential visitors.
“No rep now in Europe. We are using social media mostly due to budget. For example, in shows in the US we boost ads on FB in the state to lure people to the show,” explained Minister Tmetuchl of what PVA is doing to promote Palau at this time.
“We are focusing on the yachting customers,” said one of the tour operators. They don’t have the same challenges as other visitors that have to go long way around through countries with less restrictive borders as well as testing requirements.
Due to COVID, many yachts were grounded in different ports or unable to obtain services in the ports due to border restrictions. Now that Palau’s borders are open, many are coming in for repairs and other services.
“We will focus on this market while we wait for things to get back to “normal”, he added.
So far, most of the arriving visitors are from the United States and Canada because of the ease of travel from these areas.
“We are looking at the European market,” said Minister Tmetuchl. However, he also added that they needed to determine the transit requirements for the Philippines and review European connecting flights to the Philippines.
“If we can resume flights from Taiwan and Korea, this will allow for transit from Europe,” added Tmetuchl.
Tourism and travel are slowly returning due to the easing up of border restrictions. New Zealand, Australia, the Philippines, and others are seeing the return of tourism although the number of visitors is still only a fraction of their pre-covid numbers.
Fiscal Economist Kevin O’Keef of the USA Graduate School in his presentation at the 2021 Economic Symposium pegged Palau’s economic recovery on the recovery of tourism.
He said that Palau’s tourism history shows volatility but it also has demonstrated resiliency and that it can provide economical benefits again with good planning.