President Tommy Remengesau, Jr. expressed his optimism that Palau will overcome the challenges faced by its tourism industry, the country’s strongest economic driver, saying that Palau is a resilient country and his people have always come together as a nation.

Sea Passion Group’s recent announcement of halting service flights through its airline, Palau Pacific Airways (PPA), had sparked discussions in the local and international scenes, especially after the group cited that one of the main reasons for this decision is the decline of Chinese tourists coming to Palau due to China’s banning of tours to the country.

China classifying Palau as an “illegal tourist destination” is seen as an effort to place further pressure on Taiwan’s diplomatic allies which include Palau. This is not the first time that China is viewed to have used airlines to shape international policy. International reports stated that Beijing had also asked 44 airlines previously to list Taiwan as a province of China rather than as a country.

In a press conference held at the Office of the President’s Satellite Office on Wednesday, July 25, President Tommy Remengesau, Jr. discussed about Palau’s Tourism Industry status, saying that Palau’s tourist arrivals around this time of summer is “traditionally low.”

“We are resilient. We come together. We find ways to make up. Whether the reason of tourist not coming is political, whether it’s economical, whether it’s typhoon, health, virus, we’ve always come together as a nation,” Remengesau said.

Remengesau also said that PPA’s suspension of its flights is not going to stop Chinese tourists from coming to Palau as they can still come via flights from Japan or Korea.

Palau Pacific Airways is not the sole airline that carries Chinese tourists to Palau. Palau Visitors Authority’s (PVA) June 2018 statistics revealed that tourists from China also choose Lanmei as their carrier.

Allies to the Rescue

Remengesau also shared during the press conference that Taiwan will double China Airlines’ flights to Palau from originally having two flights a week to four flights a week.

The Ministry of Public Infrastructure, Industries and Commerce (MPIIC), according to Remengesau, is now also in the final negotiations with a Japanese-run airline, Skymark, which will replace Delta airlines – the first airline that announced suspension of flights to Palau this year.

Remengesau also said that he will meet with Korean government officials to discuss about collaboration on boosting tourists from Korea.

Palau’s President also reiterated that during his trip to Japan to attend the 8th Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting (PALM 8) last May, he had publicly stated that relationship with Japan is not just about “government-to-government assistance” but it should also cultivate relationship with the private sector.

“That means investment in hotels as well as increase of tourism coming from Japan,” Remengesau added.

Remengesau said that he had also met with the European Officials and partners and urged them to help increase the number of tourists coming from their respective countries to Palau.

Our diplomatic friends are very attentive and I think like true friends, we’re good friends through good times and friends through bad times – through thick and thin,” Remengesau remarked.

Remengesau also did not fail to point out that Palau does not want to focus its tourism market to only one country.

“We don’t put our eggs in one basket because we have learned in the past when we only promote our tourism from only one source and when that source[‘s economy stumbles] then we are directly and very much impacted by it. But if we share our tourism in different baskets and if one economy group [is] down, at least we still have some other groups to continue to keep up with the stats,” Remengesau stressed. (Rhealyn C. Pojas)