Japanese Tourist Companies Protest Higher Fees In Palau

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Experience doesn’t justify $100 Environmental Impact fee, $50 visa

By L. N. Reklai

KOROR, Palau (Island Times, May 10, 2016) – A letter to President Tommy Remengesau Jr., signed by owners and managers of 40 Japanese companies involved in tourism, protested the new law raising the Environmental Impact Fee and Visa Fee. The new fees will take effect on October 31, 2016.

Citing that $150 per person on top of existing fees such as Rock Island Fee, Jellyfish Lake and other States fees will be too costly. "We think a group of family and friends rather spend and enjoy that much on local souvenir and experience local tradition of Palau," states the letter.

The letter cites that decreasing number of tourists from Japan will further decrease if this law is implemented. "Lesser income, lesser taxes and poorer service" will result if tourist numbers drop. Possible closure of some of the businesses may result due to decrease in tourists, the letter asserted.

The businesses state that the "state that the infrastructures of the entire Palau such as water supply, electric supply, sewage system, airport, etc., are still in dire need of development" and does not support high-end visitors.

The letter further states that the "future aim and vision for Palau in the near term might never be realized" and recommends not implementing the new fees.

The new law RPPL 9-49, the Palau National Marine Sanctuary Act, Section 5 and Section 6 raised Environmental Impact Fee from $50 to $100 and establish a visa fee of $50 everyone except for certain countries and special exemptions.

Section 5, amended 40 PNC Chapter 27, Environmental Impact Fee, increasing the fee from $50 to $100. Only exemptions to this are Palauan citizens, their spouses, persons holding valid Palauan working permit and transit passengers.

The same law Section 6, amend 13 PNC Chapter 10, on Visa requirements. All persons entering Palau, whether to visit, work or reside must pay $50 for a visa. Only exemptions are US citizens, citizens of FSM and RMI. Minister of Finance is given authority to establish exemption for people with work permits, diplomats, transiting passengers, airline pilots and crew and other special classes of individuals.

According to PVA visitor arrival reports, the numbers from Japan have been dipping steadily since 2014, primarily due to large influx of visitors from PRC displacing Japanese numbers. PVA also shows in their 2015 Annual Report that Japan has spent over $17 million USD worth of print and TV media broadcast since the visit of Emperor and Empress of Japan. According to the report there is a very high interest among travel agents and tourist partners on Palau.

Recently, All Nippon Airways (ANA) announced its market exploratory flight services to Palau from Japan from August to September 2016 with Winter season flights being planned. ANA will be servicing Narita and Nagoya routes to Palau with Boeing 767 with 214 seating capacity, according to their recent press release

In his letter to President Remengesau on April 20, Mr. Koichi Uchizono, Senior Executive Vice President of ANA expressed his gratitude and commitment in enhancing Palau's tourism industry.

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