2012 Ends In High Notes, Amid Disaster

By Jackson Henry —-

Palau closes year 2012 in high notes, amid destructions and disruptions brought by typhoon Bopha. Driven by robust tourism arrivals, Palau’s economy showed resilience, despite worries of US “fiscal cliff” and Europe’s insurmountable debt burdens which are dragging down economies worldwide.

I have been assured by PVA that 2012 will be another 100,000 plus tourism arrivals, possibly overtaking 2011’s 109,000 arrival rate. Tourism, which is Palau’s “taro and fish” industry, is credited for making 2012 another banner year economically for our fledging nation. I have heard that our local revenues could hit an all time high at $48 million. This is a major landmark record for Palau.

I predict that with more hotel rooms and new visitor attractions built in Palau will spur our GDP and tax receipts to a level where local revenues alone, say $75 million, will be sufficient to fund our national government without external funding sources.

It is no rocket science. Driving downtown, between the Post Office and Palasia Hotel, one can easily observe the heavy tourists foot traffic. Many are carrying shopping bags and others are patronizing shops and restaurants lined up along Ernguul Street. New shops are opening up in response to the abundance of tourism dollars flowing around. A new Japanese Tori Tori restaurant and gift shop is the latest addition on the strip. I have been informed that Hanpa is converting some of his building’s vacant spaces for a small hotel operation. Given that 70% of any economy is driven by consumer spending, it is only fitting that Palau’s tourism and shopping district in Koror is spruced up to accommodate the expanding market.

Another encouraging report in 2012 is the 131% increase in mainland Chinese tourist arrivals. Thanks to Palau Airways direct flight between Hong Kong and Palau, a new market, which sat dormant for years, is finally being tapped. Palau cannot ignore the Chinese tourism market. By year 2015, outbound Chinese tourists will hit a whopping 100 million. If Palau wants tourism growth, then the China market is ripe for the taking.

And speaking of airlines, Palau Airways commencement of air services is one of Palau’s economic highlights for 2012 and will remain a vital tourism infrastructure for years to come. The airline’s very name helps promote Palau as a tourist destination in Asia. Not too many island nations have the bragging rights as Palau having an airline named after it. Bravo Palau Airways !

But economic growth cannot be sustained without infrastructures to support it. Thanks to an ADB loan in 2012, Palau obtained a rare funding opportunity to finally address its failing sewer and water systems, along with our long awaited dream of having fiber optics installed. The stage has been set for 2013 to fix these much needed infrastructures once and for all.

Palau appreciates the outpouring of donations from the USA, Republic of China, Japan, Guam, private firms and organizations who assisted those who suffered the devastation of typhoon Bopha. Their generosities helped cap 2012 in high notes and makes the year another breakthrough for businesses and international cooperation which Palau has not seen in years. More power for 2013. Happy new year everyone !!

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