Palau-Taiwan travel bubble begins amid a mixture of excitement and anxiety

Koror — Palau’s travel bubble with Taiwan is touted to be the first in the Asia Pacific. In the coronavirus raging era, both countries have a claim to fame — Palau remains completely Covid-free, while Taiwan has managed to promptly curb the outbreak before it got worse.

While Palau may have dodged the coronavirus assault, the border closure has taken its toll on the visitor industry, which has been on shaky ground over the years even prior to the onslaught of the global pandemic.

The shrinking numbers were attributed to China’s move in late 2017 to ban package tours to Palau. China’s decision to cancel Palau’s approved destination status was widely viewed as a “punishment” for the Pacific nation’s diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

But Palau President Surangel Whipps Jr. — as did his predecessor Tommy Remengesau— refuses to kowtow to Beijing. He has affirmed Palau’s relationship with Taiwan, which is further sealed by the “sterile corridor.”

The April 1 launch of the travel bubble was officially announced by President Surangel Whipps Jr. and Taiwan’s Ambassador to Palau Wallace Chow at a press conference held March 17 in Koror.