Vice President Lai Ching-te (賴清德) returned to Taiwan Thursday evening after wrapping up a three-day visit to Palau.
Lai told reporters that he believes the trip to Palau will help to foster more collaborations between the two countries, shortly after a plane carrying him and a delegation of government officials, business representatives and baseball stars landed at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport.
The delegation, which included representatives of Taiwan’s leading travel agencies and industry associations, is confident it can bring more tourists to Taiwan’s Pacific ally, said Lai, who embarked on his three-day trip on Tuesday in the hope of finding ways to boost tourism in Palau and strength bilateral ties.
Palau is one of 14 states in the world that formally recognize the Republic of China, Taiwan’s official name. The two countries established diplomatic ties in 1999.
Tourism is one of the Pacific island country’s main income earners, but that sector has been hit hard over the past few years, first by China’s decision to block its nationals from visiting the country in late 2017, then by the COVID-19 pandemic beginning in early 2020.
As a result, Palau hopes to attract more tourists from Taiwan, from which outbound travel to the Pacific island country peaked at 41,909 in 2004.
However, a travel bubble between the two nations introduced in March 2021 with the endorsement of Palauan President Surangel Whipps Jr. failed to meet expectations.
Only 2,621 Taiwanese visited Palau in 2021, and 1,019 went there in the first eight months of 2022, Taiwan Tourism Bureau figures show.
Earlier at a press conference in Palau, Lai said over the past three days, he had felt Whipps’ “high expectations” that Taiwan’s government would help encourage more Taiwanese tourists to visit Palau as it gradually recovers from the impact of the pandemic.
Whipps has expressed hope that the number of tourists from Taiwan to Palau would return to its peak in the 2000s, Lai said.
Lai said he had “an unofficial” discussion with representatives of Taiwan’s leading travel agencies and travel agency associations who indicated they “are willing and confident that they can gradually reach that goal.”
Also on Thursday, Lai attended two ceremonies in Palau in which Taipei-based Shin Kong Wu Ho-Su Memorial Hospital donated equipment for long-distance medical services to the Palau Ministry of Health & Human Services and a Taiwanese NGO provided baseball equipment to the Palau Major League.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel