Palau travel bubble hits a snag

The travel bubble between Taiwan and Palau is in danger of popping following low interest from Taiwanese tourists to take a holiday from a year of COVID-19  border restrictions.

In an effort to revitalise Palau’s economy which was devastated by COVID-19 in 2020 (with GDP down by 9.5% according to the Asian Development Bank), Palau and Taiwan announced the launching of a travel bubble last month.

President Surangel Whipps Jr. said after months of discussions,  the bubble could finally happen. He flew to Taiwan for an official visit, returning to Palau days later with 100 tourists.

Amongst them was Hung Tzu-jen, who is the deputy superintendent at the Shin Kong Wu Ho Su Memorial Hospital. Speaking through a translator, he lauded Palau’s efforts to ensure that the bubble was safe. Hung said it was his first holiday outside Taiwan since the declaration of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Flights between Taiwan and Palau were planned twice a week under the travel bubble or “sterile corridor”.

While the inaugural flight on April 1  was much celebrated by both countries—with tourists excited and energised by the trip—the interest in flights subsequently dwindled.

Just 63 tourists have arrived since then. By April 14, China Airlines had cancelled the flight, saying only two tourists were interested. 

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