- By Bernadette Carreon
Palau officially reopens tourism, awaits first flight from Taiwan
Taiwan-Palau travel bubble touted to be the world's model of safe travel
Koror-- Taiwan President Tsai Ing-Wen said the Palau-Taiwan travel bubble, which is being launched today, "can show the world that this model of safe travel will be feasible.”
The first flight to Palau, which brings 110 Taiwanese tourists aboard China Airlines, is scheduled to arrive at 6:30 p.m. tonight.
The initial border reopening allows two flights a week. If proven successful, the frequency will increase gradually toward the 16-flights-a-week target.
Palau President Surangel Whipps Jr. is in Taiwan, making his pitch to encourage tourists to visit the tiny nation known for its underwater wonders and pristine waters.
On Tuesday, Whipps and his delegation met with Tsai to bolster the two nations' relationship amid the pandemic and increasing threat of China in the region.
Tsai said she can personally attest to the beauty of Palau and encouraged Taiwanese travelers to consider the Covid-free nation as their destination.
“I want to offer my wholehearted endorsement of Palau’s tourism sector and when I visited Palau, I am very much impressed with its ocean views, traditional culture and commitment to environmental protection," Tsai said. "I strongly encouraged Taiwanese people to visit Palau and I am looking forward to going there myself."
Tsai is optimistic that Palau's goal to receive 100,000 Taiwanese tourists a year will be reached. “I am sure with the launch of this travel bubble, we are advancing towards that goal," she added.
She characterized the travel bubble as a “historic moment” for the two nations and the launch is being closely watched by the global community.
The Taiwan president said the bubble shows how much Palau values Taiwan.
She vowed to continue working with Palau to battle the pandemic and continue providing medical equipment, supplies to the country to ensure it maintains “its amazing zero record cases.”
Taiwan, which had recorded over 1,000 Covid-19 cases, is one of the few countries that have succeeded in keeping the community transmission in check.
Under the travel bubble, tourists who want to visit Palau are required to undergo Covid-19 tests before boarding the plane.
The travelers will have to join a tour group and are not allowed to mingle with the Palauan community.
Taiwanese traveling back from Palau after the five-day trip will have to go into "enhanced" self-health management and a nine-day "normal" self-health management period.
In a press statement on Tuesday, Whipps said the bubble was made possible with “Taiwan and Palau’s remarkable handling of the Covid-19 pandemic”
The Palau president also said another strong partner, the United States, provided Palau with personal protective equipment, testing supplies and equipment, and expert technical assistance throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
Whipps said he was grateful to be able to travel to Taiwan and always looked up to the nation on how it successfully handled the pandemic.
“Opening up this sterile corridor is all about opening with care and being safe, we know that what we are doing will cause some inconvenience .. we ask for people’s safety because it all about safety,” Whipps said.
Whipps said he hopes that his visit to Taiwan will also boost confidence for the Taiwanese people that it’s safe to travel to Palau.
The Palau president also thanked the United States for the vaccination program and that the nation is on its way to achieving herd immunity.
“For Palau, we got our shot in the arm with the vaccine, by allowing the tourists to come in we have a shot in the arm with our economy and that's very important,” Whipps said.
He added that many people in Palau are out of work because the nation has always been reliant on tourism.