Vice President William Lai (賴清德) yesterday arrived in Palau with a delegation for a three-day trip aimed at boosting the Pacific ally’s tourism industry and promoting bilateral cooperation.
Speaking at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport ahead of his departure, Lai said he hoped to deepen bilateral collaboration between the countries on diplomacy, tourism, medicine, education and cultural affairs through his visit, which ends tomorrow.
Lai’s trip to Palau is to focus on finding ways to promote Palau’s tourism sector, which is one of the country’s main industries and has been hit hard over the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Presidential Office said.
Lai said he hopes more Taiwanese will visit Palau, adding that with representatives of Taiwan’s leading travel agencies and travel agency associations among the delegation, he was optimistic about achieving that goal.
In the past two decades, Taiwanese outbound travel to Palau was highest from 2003 to 2007, with 41,909 travelers to the Pacific nation in 2004, and from 2011 to 2014, with a peak of 37,512 in 2012, Tourism Bureau data showed.
Visits from Taiwan fell to 9,884 in 2017, but when China, the source of about half of Palau’s visitors and considerable investment in its tourism sector, blocked its nationals from traveling to the country starting in late 2017, Ngerulmud hoped Taipei could pick up some of the slack.
Taiwanese visitors rose to 15,511 by 2019, but fell significantly amid the pandemic. A travel bubble set up to great fanfare between the countries in March last year failed to meet expectations.
Only 2,621 Taiwanese visited Palau last year, and 1,019 traveled there in the first eight months of this year, Tourism Bureau data showed.
During his three-day visit, Lai is to meet with Palauan President Surangel Whipps Jr and Vice President J. Uduch Sengebau Sr separately, and visit both houses of the Palau National Congress.
The two countries have enjoyed strong diplomatic relations for 23 years and Taiwan looks forward to further consolidating the bilateral relationship while enhancing people-to-people ties, Lai said.
Taiwan and Palau can also work together to promote the values of democracy, freedom and human rights worldwide, he added.
The delegation also includes Taiwanese baseball stars Chen Yung-chi (陳鏞基) and Hu Chin-Lung (胡金龍), who are to join the vice president in a ceremony in which a Taiwan-based organization is to donate baseball equipment to the Palau Major League.
Lai is also joined by representatives of Shin Kong Wu Ho-Su Memorial Hospital, who are to inaugurate a long-distance medical center in Palau, a joint initiative of the Taipei-based hospital and the Palauan Ministry of Health and Human Services.
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