'Air V&V': Hundreds of Taiwanese book Guam vacation and vaccination trips
Hundreds of Taiwanese people eager to get a coronavirus vaccine have booked tours to Guam after the US Pacific territory offered jabs to foreign visitors, a travel agency said Friday.
Tiny Guam, for which tourism is a major economic driver, has limited Covid-19 infections and a high vaccination rate among the local population.
Dubbed "Air V&V"—vacation and vaccination—the new programme is primarily aimed at US expatriates in the Asia-Pacific region, although other nationalities can join.
Participants can choose between the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.
Of the three, only Moderna is available in Taiwan as the island has been struggling to secure enough vaccine supplies.
Just nine percent of Taiwan's 23.5 million people had been vaccinated as of Thursday, according to the health ministry.
Lion Travel, one of the biggest tour operators in Taiwan, said all 439 slots in its first four packages to Guam starting on July 6 had been sold.
The packages cover flights and hotels, with prices starting at Tw$45,900 ($1,530), excluding the cost of Covid-19 tests.
The company also offers seven-day and 22-day trips and expects a revenue of Tw$140 million if the packages are fully booked.
"We will discuss with airlines to operate two additional direct flights on July 26 and August 12 to meet market demand," it said in a statement.
Interest in vaccination tours was boosted following the Guam government's decision to exempt visitors who can show negative coronavirus test results from quarantine from July 4, it added.
According to the Guam Visitors Bureau, eligible travellers can obtain a Covid-19 vaccine shot the day after their arrival and freely tour the country after that.
Taiwan had only received 726,000 vaccine doses before the United States and Japan recently donated 2.5 million and 1.24 million doses, respectively.
President Tsai Ing-wen has explicitly accused China of being a stumbling block to getting Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines from Germany as Taiwan battles a sudden spike in coronavirus cases.
Beijing has ramped up pressure on self-ruled, democratic Taiwan since Tsai's 2016 election as she rejects its view that the island is a part of Chinese territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary.
China keeps Taiwan locked out of international bodies such as the World Health Organization.
It denies hampering Taiwan's vaccination drive and accuses Tsai's government of refusing to deal with the Shanghai-based company that distributes Pfizer vaccines in the Greater China region. (AFP)