Thu, Aug 02, 2018 - Page 4 News List

MOFA seeks plan to bolster tourism of Pacific allies

By Julianna Lai  /  Contributing reporter

As Palau’s tourism industry continues to suffer under Beijing’s reported tourist group ban, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) yesterday said it is in talks with major Taiwanese airlines and travel agencies to explore ways to support tourism in Palau and other Pacific island nations.

In the coming months, the ministry expects to announce collaborations with Taiwanese tour companies to assess tourism profiles for Taiwan’s six diplomatic allies in the region: Palau, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Kiribati, the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu, Department of East Asian and Pacific Affairs Director-General Ger Bau-shuan (葛葆萱) said.

“We want to encourage Taiwanese nationals to visit our allies,” Ger said. “But it will take a lot of planning and working with small and medium-sized enterprises in those nations to appeal to tourists.”

The ministry is likely to prioritize tours to Kiribati, the Solomon Islands and the Marshall Islands, the most populous of the six nations.

“It is a large region. No one will want to go on a 20-day trip, so we would like to see how we can visit as many countries as possible in 10 days or so,” Ger said.

Officials hope that having Taiwanese companies partner with tourism industries abroad will ease China’s influence on the small Pacific island economies.

Since Beijing reportedly imposed a tourist group ban against Palau, Palau Pacific Airways — the nation’s sole local airline — has been forced to suspend operations due to financial losses.

Since last month, China Airlines has been operating flights to Palau twice a week to support Palauan President Tommy Remengesau’s efforts to diversify tourism in the nation.

However, the increased number of flights is only being offered during the peak travel season, Ger said.

China is Palau’s largest tourism market. Nearly half of Palau’s foreign visitors each year are Chinese — nearly three times the number of Taiwanese visitors.

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