Thu, Jul 19, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Palauan airline stops flights to China

FINANCIAL LOSSES:Since Beijing’s no-fly restrictions against Palau, the nation has seen a 16 percent decrease in Chinese tourists, a report to the Palauan Congress said

By Jake Chung  /  Staff writer, with CNA

Rocks covered with vegetation rise out of the Rock Islands Southern Lagoon in Palau in an undated photograph.

Photo courtesy of AimHit Sports Marketing and Communication Consultants Co

Eight months after China instructed its travel agencies and airline companies to halt flights to Palau, Palau Pacific Airways has announced that it plans to drop its flight path from Koror, Palau, to Hong Kong due to significant financial losses.

Sea Passion Group — owner of Palau Pacific Airways and the Sea Passion Hotel — made the statement to the Palauan Congress in a report last week, the Palauan Island Times reported.

Palau Pacific Airways is the only local airline in Palau.

While Palauan President Tommy Remengesau in November last year said that China’s no-fly restriction against Palau would not hurt Palau’s economy, but would instead offer diversity for its tourism market, things are looking grim from the Pacific island nation, the newspaper said.

China applied the restrictions in an attempt to pressure Palau to switch diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China.

The restrictions have resulted in the airline and hotel having no reservations for either this month or next month, the group’s report said.

The number of tourists has dropped by more than half, with the nation recording only 25,000 tourists for the first six months of this year, the report said, adding that since China issued the no-fly order, Palau has seen a 16 percent decrease in Chinese tourists.

Palau recorded 91,000 visits from Chinese nationals in 2015 and 70,000 in 2016, comprising nearly half of its foreign tourists, government statistics showed.

By contrast, the average number of tourists visiting Palau from Japan and Taiwan totaled 10,000 and 30,000 respectively, the statistics showed.

“While China has enacted a policy of checking online and physical travel agencies for compliance to state policy, the policy was not strictly enforced until now,” the newspaper quoted the Sea Passion Group report as saying.

Delta Airlines in February announced that it was terminating services from the Northern Marianas to Japan, and had pulled out of Koror as of May, citing low demand, the report said.

Starting last month and continuing until next month, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is adding two direct flights per week to Palau in support of Remengesau’s policy to diversify the tourist population visiting Palau, ministry spokesman Andrew Lee (李憲章) said yesterday.

“We welcome all foreign travelers visiting Palau to make use of the increased number of direct flights between Koror and Taoyuan to better explore Palau and its wonderful marine scenery,” he said.

China Airlines, the main airline flying the Koror-Taoyuan route, had flown 18 flights as of May and had carried more than 2,015 passengers.

Additional reporting by Chen Yi-chia

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