A sharp drop in the number of visitors to Palau from China is of little concern, says a local tourism official.

Palau airport on Babelthuap island
Photo: RNZI Walter Zweifel

A recent report from the South Pacific Tourism Organisation said visitor numbers dropped 16 percent from the previous quarter, spearheaded by a 20.9 percent drop in visitors from China, Palau’s biggest market.

That quarter coincided with retaliation meted out after a visit by Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, in November, when Beijing banned its travel agencies from arranging visits to Palau.

But John Tanner, from the Palau Visitors Bureau, said the tourism industry remained healthy, and the country had been trying to diversify its industry anyway after what he described as an unsustainable influx.

“We’re trying to bring it back into a more diverse balance of tourism instead of being lopsided by most of our Chinese tourists. So we’re just trying to balance out between all the nationalities a little bit,” Mr Tanner said.

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