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Palau president to visit Taiwan

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Palau president to visit Taiwan

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Source: Reuters

Recently inaugurated Palauan President Surangel Whipps Jr. will begin a three-day visit to Taiwan today.

Whipps will meet his Taiwanese counterpart, President Tsai Ing-Wen, over a ‘travel bubble’ plan, which will allow lowered entry and relaxed quarantine requirements between Palau and Taiwan beginning April 1.

The plan is a first-step to post-COVID recovery for Palauan tourism, which accounts for roughly 50% of GDP. Since 2017, the nation has reeled from China’s ban on state-approved tours because of Palau’s continued diplomatic allegiance to Taiwan. Prior to Beijing’s actions, Chinese citizens accounted for 50% of tourist arrivals—an all-time high.

Whipps is avowedly a Taiwan loyalist, so the travel bubble likely signals a renewed Palauan strategy on rebalancing tourism away from mainland China.

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However, in a year when GDP is expected to further contract by 12%, the lack of mainland Chinese tourists will severely affect Palau’s tourism sector. At 32% of all arrivals, mainlanders still made up the largest share of tourists pre-COVID. Regardless, Palau’s staunch pro-Taiwan stance will continue, but expect Beijing to retaliate in other ways—for example, turning a blind eye to Chinese fishing fleets’ illegal fishing in environmentally-protected Palauan waters.

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