Palau is one of the top five Pacific Island countries most popular destinations receiving 100,000 visitors more than the other 10 countries combined, according to a new World Bank report on emerging tourism markets.
The Pacific Possible: Tourism report said that tourism is the economic driver of most Pacific Island economies like Palau, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa and Vanuatu.
Palau's famous tourist destination- Jellyfish Lake. Photo by Richard W. Brooks
The report stated that total tourism spending in Pacific Island countries for 2013 amounted to US$1.4 billion.
In 2014, a record 1.37 million overnight visitors arrived across eleven Pacific Island countries, with Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Palau, Samoa and Vanuatu making up the top five destinations.
Two thirds of visitors traveling to Pacific Island countries are from Australia and New Zealand, while the United States, China, Japan and Europe represent significant growth potential, it added.
The tourism report, which was released for public comment at the annual board meeting of the South Pacific Tourism Organization, outlines a plan for long-term, balanced and manageable tourism growth to the year 2040.
The report recommends four key strategy areas for attention: improving international transport links to the region; attracting higher-spending tourists; improved public sector engagement; and improving linkages between tourism and local economies.
A press statement from the World Bank said that in the Pacific region there are opportunities of growth from the Chinese market.
In Palau, the Chinese tourists are now the top tourism market, which was traditionally occupied by the Japan market.
The Chinese businessmen have also dominated investments in the last couple of years in Palau.
“Tourism is one of the Pacific region’s most economically viable sectors, with significant opportunities for sustainable growth in the Chinese tourist, cruise ship, luxury travel and retiree markets,” said John Perrottet, report author and Senior Technical Specialist at the World Bank in a press release.
“By taking a targeted approach to tourism development, Pacific Island countries can ensure visitor numbers are kept at sustainable levels, while attracting higher-spending tourists – helping to protect the precious natural environment and cultural heritage that make this region so special.”
“Tourism has a multiplier effect in local economies, helping to boost business activity and the livelihoods of people working in various other industries, including agriculture and retail,” said Franz Drees-Gross, World Bank Country Director for Papua New Guinea, Timor-Leste and the Pacific Islands. “We hope this report will assist Pacific Island governments in sustainable planning for more tourism arrivals from both existing and emerging tourism markets.”
The other Pacific Island countries that could also benefit from the tourism sector are Solomon Islands, Tonga, Kiribati, Marshall Islands (RMI), Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) and Tuvalu.
The report said with sustainable planning around emerging tourism markets could help Pacific Island countries gain as much as US$1.8 billion per year in additional revenues and create up to 128,000 additional jobs by 2040.
It also noted that the island nations have vast opportunities for growth due to its pristine natural environments and cultural diversity.