Minister Ngirai Tmetuchel

Work to revive Palau’s tourism industry is mainly dependent on the Palauan people’s acceptance and internal assurance that comes from knowing that they are protected as claimed by Minister Ngirai Tmetuchel of Human Resources, Culture, Tourism, & Development (MRCTD).

“Marketing is easy.  The major issue is with us, it’s an internal issue.  We need everyone, the community, the media, and Palauans to be confident and assured that we are vaccinated and the people coming also vaccinated, so if we decide we can open up, then marketing is easy,” added Tmetuchl.

Efforts are underway to restart the Palau tourism industry beginning with amending the language in the CROSS Act, returning employees of the private sector that were temporarily absorbed by the government to return to their place of work to prepare for the opening of Palau’s borders. 

Furthermore, the drive to get as many people vaccinated raced through the whole population achieving nearly 90% of all adults fully vaccinated by August of this year.  Aggressive work to resume Taiwan-Palau Travel Bubble, PCR testing at airports, allowance of vaccinated travel via Guam all spurred toward tourism recovery.

Talks of adding more flights from Guam, rescinding the ban on flights originating from Macao or Hong Kong, and re-starting talks with Japan and Korean airlines that planned on flying to Palau pre-pandemic time.

When asked what is being done to restart the tourism industry, Minister Tmetuchl assured that there is work ongoing in marketing but claimed that community reluctance and lack of confidence hold back the recovery effort.  “Marketing is easy but internally we need to decide whether or not we are ready to accept travelers.”

Tourism recovery signals economic recovery for Palau and the government’s incentive to get people vaccinated is driven by health and economic recovery goals.

Palau’s economy is projected to fall by 25% in FY 21 as a result of tourism drying up in 2020 and a slight increase in 2021 according to the Economic Brief 2021 by Graduate School USA and EconMap. 

“Given that recovery of the tourism industry is only assumed to return in the second half of FY22, a further deficit of $19 million or 7% of GDP is projected for FY22 before full recovery in FY23.”

“It is a big responsibility we have to face, and accepting the new normal.  Life must go on,” stated President Surangel Whipps of Palau moving forward and recovering its travel industry.

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