Palau President Whipps ‘confident’ about travel bubble with Taiwan

Taipei-Palau President Surangel Whipps Jr. said Wednesday that his government and Taiwan are confident about the planned launch of a travel bubble between the two countries on April 1, which will be the first initiative of its kind in the Asia-Pacific region.

The policy, which was unveiled at press conferences in both countries, will allow Taiwanese tour groups to travel to the Pacific nation on two weekly flights, while offering streamlined quarantine procedures on each side.

At a press conference with Taiwan Ambassador to Palau Wallace Chow (???), Whipps said that at first, the two sides were worried that the travel bubble would threaten their successful efforts at controlling COVID-19, which is why they did not start the program sooner.

Despite those concerns, Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (???) and a delegation from the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) took the major step of visiting Palau in January, Whipps said.

"I think it's important that they came and they saw, and now they have confidence in our system, and they know that we are truly COVID-free," he said. "And I think we now believe that they are truly COVID-safe."

During the press conference, Whipps also confirmed that he will visit Taiwan on March 28 to promote Palau's tourism and meet with President Tsai Ing-wen (???).

On April 1, he said, he will join Taiwanese tourists on the inaugural flight to Palau under the travel bubble program.

Palau, a diplomatic ally of Taiwan with a population of around 18,000, has had no recorded cases of COVID-19 to date and has begun administering doses of the Moderna vaccine supplied by the United States.

The country is eager to welcome Taiwanese tourists but has set strict regulations on where and how the tour groups will be able to travel, taking an "open with care" approach, according to Whipps.

In Taiwan, meanwhile, several travel agencies said Wednesday that they hoped to begin selling tour packages to Palau within a week.

Yo Kuo-chen (???), a spokesperson for Lion Travel, said his company would be offering four-day, three-night tours, departing from Taiwan on Thursdays, and five-day, four-night tours departing on Sundays.

While the prices have not yet been confirmed, Yu said, they are likely to range between NT$70,000 (US$2,473) and NT$90,000, about double the cost before the pandemic.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel