By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
Whipps all set to visit Taiwan to begin marketing spiel as travel bubble opens
Palau President Surangel Whipps Jr. will become the nation's promoter-in-chief as he prepares for his upcoming trip to Taiwan, where he will visit tour agencies and medical facilities.
"The most important part of this trip is to open the travel bubble," Whipps told the Pacific Island Times.
The president, who is scheduled to leave for Taipei on Monday, will be among Taiwan's first Palauan visitors at the launch of the "sterile corridor" between the two allied countries.
Whipps said his itinerary will include a meeting with his Taiwanese counterpart, President Tsai Ing-wen, "to further improve our relationship" and reaffirm "our strong bilateral ties" with Taiwan.
He will also meet with Taiwan's health and tourism officials as well as representatives of tour companies.
"The purpose of this visit is to promote Palau as a safe destination for Taiwanese travelers and to make them accept Palauans as visitors," Whipps said.
Palau is among the last countries standing, remaining completely free of Covid-19, while Taiwan has gained world fame for its success in keeping the coronavirus outbreak in check. With a population of 23.5 million, Taiwan has managed to contain its positive cases at 1,006 and death toll at 10.
Whipps, however, said the reopening of tourism will have to be gradual, starting with two flights a week for the first two weeks of the April 1 launch.
The frequency will increase to four flights a week until both countries are ready to hit the goal of 16 flights a week. "We're hoping to get to that quick," Whipps said.
But the length of a visitor's stay in Palau would not be longer than one week "because we want to minimize the risk," the president said.
Whipps said nearly 50 percent of Palau's population currently have had their first vaccine shots. "By early April, we are hoping that more than 50 percent will have their complete shots," he said.
The president will also visit hospitals in Taiwan, the destination for most Palauan patients needing medical treatments.