Milky Way, Clam City touted in Taiwan-Palau travel bubble

Taipei, March 12 (CNA) Tourist attractions in Palau such as the famed Milky Way and Clam City snorkeling spots will be among designated tour sites for visitors from Taiwan, in a “travel bubble” encompassing the two nations amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the chief of Palau’s tourism promotion office in Taiwan said Friday.

Alex Lei, who heads the Palau Visitors Authority’s (PVA’s) representative office in Taiwan, made the statement after a much-anticipated travel initiative between Taiwan and Palau was reported last week to have made major progress.

The PVA, in preparation for the launch of the travel bubble, has compiled a list of hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions that meet the authority’s pandemic control requirements, Lei said.

Travel agents are restricted to those destinations on the list when planning tours for the two-nation travel bubble, he noted. “No visits are allowed to places that are not on the list,” he said.

According to the tourism promoter, popular locations for snorkeling — Milky Way and Clam City — are on the list. Restrictions have been set on the number of visitors at each destination and restaurants in Palau at any one time, Lei said.

He noted that more tourist attractions are under pandemic control training so that they can also be certified as safe for tourist visits.

As to the cost of the tours, Lei said he believes there will be many options at different price ranges to give people more choice, rather than a straight NT$80,000 (US$2,844) package for a five-day, four-night tour, as had previously been reported.

CNA first reported on March 7 that progress had been made on the long-proposed “travel bubble,” which Palau describes as a “sterile corridor,” citing sources in the travel industry.

Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) later confirmed that talks are ongoing and are expected to conclude before the end of March.

Earlier in the day, sources familiar with the matter told CNA that the first tour group from Taiwan to Palau will depart for the trip in early April at the earliest.

The sources also said members of tour groups in the Taiwan-Palau travel bubble will be limited to those who have not traveled overseas within six months of their tour, have never been quarantined, and have never been diagnosed with COVID-19.

Palau, one of Taiwan’s 15 diplomatic allies, has not had any confirmed cases since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Taiwan, on the other hand, has recorded 984 cases of COVID-19, 868 of which have been classified as imported, with 10 fatalities, according to Central Epidemic Control Center statistics as of Friday.

(By Yu Hsiao-han and Elizabeth Hsu)