World-first COVID-safe travel corridor opens between Palau and Taiwan

Republic of Palau- Office of the President

A world-first COVID-safe, quarantine-free “Sterile Corridor” opened today between Palau and Taiwan with the arrival of Palau’s first inbound tourism flight since March 2020. The sold-out China Air flight landed in Palau at around 7:30 pm, carrying Taiwanese travelers eager for their first international vacation in over a year.

                Palau’s border has remained closed since March 2020 to keep its local population of 18,000 safe from the risk of COVID-19. Palau is one of the only countries to remain completely COVID-free, but as tourism is Palau’s biggest economic driver, the border closure has had a devastating effect on the country’s economy.

                Palau’s President, Surangel Whipps, Jr. returned to Palau from Taiwan on the Sterile Corridor’s inaugural flight following his first State Visit since taking office in January. On arrival in Palau, President Whipps marked the occasion with a ceremonial signing of the Palau Pledge: the country’s official passport stamp that all visitors must sign on arrival, promising to preserve Palau’s environment and respect its culture for the sake of the next generation.

                H.E. Wallace Chow, Taiwan’s Ambassador to Palau, and H.E. John Hennessey-Niland, US Ambassador to Palau, joined President Whipps at the signing ceremony and also signed the Pledge to commemorate all three countries’ efforts to ensure Palau could safely reopen to tourism.

                Speaking on arrival back in Palau, President Whipps said: “I’m very happy this day has finally come. This is the first sterile travel corridor in the world between two COVID-free / COVID-safe countries, and I’m very proud of the work Palau and Taiwan have done to get us here. Taiwan is the perfect partner for this safe travel corridor. Not only because of their success in combating COVID-19, but also because Taiwanese travelers treat Palau’s people, environment, and culture with respect when they visit. Our two nations trust each other – hence why we are able to have zero-quarantine at both borders.”

                “I would like to acknowledge our Ministry of Health, the Palau Visitors Authority, the Bureau of Tourism, all border protection officers, and all front liners for their efforts to make this possible. I must add that our non-government and private sectors have been very cooperative in making this possible, and their participation in the process demonstrates the robust cross-sectoral partnership that we have here in Palau. Indeed, the corridor is safe and sterile because I experienced it firsthand, and I ask for people’s patience as we continue working to improve travel to Palau and build back better.”

                “Palau is a safe destination. We have always been COVID-free, and we’ve activated a robust preparedness plan to ensure our residents and visitors stay safe as we open with care. We are also grateful

for the partnership and the generosity of the U.S. Government, which provided the vaccine doses to Palau to make this sterile travel corridor possible.”

                Palau was one of the first countries in the world to receive the COVID-19 vaccine thanks to the support of the U.S. Government’s Operation Warp Speed program. Over 65% of Palau’s adult population is now vaccinated against COVID-19. Palau’s Bureau of Tourism has also been busy preparing for the reopening with the launch of its Pandemic Safety Certification Program – training and certifying tourism businesses on how to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 ensuring employee and visitor safety. Over 100 businesses are already certified, with many more to follow in the coming weeks.

                Taiwan is also taking stringent preventative measures to ensure the safety of the new travel corridor. All Taiwanese travelers to Palau must have tested negative for COVID-19 at the airport prior to departure and cannot have had the virus in the last three months.

                Speaking on the new travel corridor’s significance to Palau’s tourism industry, President Whipps added: “This presents a rare opportunity for Taiwanese travelers to visit our beautiful country when no other visitors can, while helping us rebuild our economy at the same time. We look forward to warmly welcoming our Taiwanese guests from today onwards. COVID has made people reevaluate their impact on the planet, and post-COVID, we know they want to travel to destinations that align with their personal values. Palau is uniquely positioned to welcome these high-value, low-impact visitors.”

                Ecotourism is the world’s fastest-growing travel sector expected to reach USD 333 Billion by 2027. During the pause in tourism caused by COVID-19, Palau’s private sector partnered with Palau Government to re- tool the nation’s travel offering to make it even more sustainable and further strengthen Palau’s brand promise as a Pristine Paradise.