Palau emerging as a Guam Air V&V vaccine tourism competitor

(Palau Visitors Authority photo)

Guam’s Air V&V program now has a major competitor —- and it’s from our own backyard.

GVB President Carl Gutierrez said that Palau is now emerging as a competitor to Guam in vaccine tourism.

“Palau is now giving vaccinations and offering vaccine tourism. So we’re trying to stave that off so we don’t get left behind,” Gutierrez said during the GVB board meeting Thursday afternoon.

Central News Agency (CNA), the national news agency of Taiwan, quoted Palau Ambassador to Taiwan Dilmei Louisa Olkeriil as saying that Palau is willing to resume its travel bubble program with Taiwan and offer a COVID-19 vaccination service to Taiwanese tourists.

In an email response to CNA questions, Olkeriil said her government worked with Taiwan to get approval for medical charter flights and re-start the travel bubble between Taiwan and Palau, which is now expected to start this Saturday.

The “travel bubble” between Taiwan and Palau was launched in April but was suspended the following month due to a COVID-19 outbreak in Taiwan.

Foreigners in Palau can avail themselves of COVID-19 vaccines, with a choice of Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson.

Palau continues to be COVID-19 free and 96 percent of Palauans are vaccinated. In contrast, Guam is only a little over 80 percent vaccinated and the number of COVID-positive cases continues to rise.

According to GVB vice president Gerry Perez, one advantage that Palau has is that after Taiwanese tourists are vaccinated and they go back to Taiwan, there’s no quarantine because Palau is COVID-free.

In Guam’s case, Taiwanese tourists who are vaccinated here have to undergo quarantine when they return to Taiwan.

On the other hand, GVB chairman Milton Morinaga said that one thing going for Guam is that vaccine tourists can be vaccinated inside a hotel like the Plaza vaccination center in the Outrigger complex unlike in Palau where vaccination is being conducted in an auditorium.

In any case, Gutierrez said Guam should recognize this new competition for GVB and make sure the Air V&V program gets enough funding so that Guam can continue to be competitive.