Chinese tourists are descending upon the remote Palau islands as the wealthy in China seek alternative holiday destinations, but not everybody is happy about it.
In an article by The Straits Times, residents of the Micronesian archipelago, who obviously know nothing about Chinese New Year, say they are baffled as to why Chinese travelers accounted for nearly 62 percent of all visitors in February – an increase of 500 percent year-on-year.
The Chinese visiting Palau are accused of being both noisy and disrespectful. “They wreck corals and throw their rubbish in the sea,” said Mr Norman, a taxi driver. Recently a Chinese tour operator, named Yellow Skin Tour, caused outrage after circulating promotional leaflets which showed grinning Chinese tourists holding up turtles out of the water, in one case by its flippers.
Those on the Chinese side visiting the islands have nothing but good things to say. “Its is like a paradise here,” said Jia Yixin, a 30-year-old from Shanghai. “In Shanghai the air is polluted but here people respect the environment,” she added.
Tourism accounts for close to 85 percent of Palau’s GDP, but some are worried that at this rate the long-term damage to the environment may be too great. “This is a very sudden influx, so we are trying to understand the situation,” said Ms Nanae Singeo, managing director of the Palau Visitors Authority.
The Palau government is understood to be exploring ways to try and stem the tide of Chinese tourists to the archipelago, with plans to half the number of charter fights arriving from China.
Unlike Palau, most countries are trying to find a way to earn themselves a slice of the Chinese tourism market. In 2014 a record $163 billion was spent overseas by Chinese holidaymakers.
By Dominic Jackson