Tue, Feb 18, 2003 - Page 11 News List

Number of tourists rose slightly last year

AFP , TAIPEI

Some 2.72 million tourists visited the country last year after the authorities launched promotional efforts to nearly double the volume before the end of 2008, a tourism official said yesterday.

Last year's arrivals were slightly higher than the targeted level, the Tourism Bureau official said.

"Given the uncertainty looming the international tourism market last year in the wake of the terrorist attacks, the number of the 2002 tourist arrivals was better than expected," said Liu Hsi-lin, an official with the bureau's Planning and Research Division.

Japan remained the leading foreign tourist source, accounting for 36 percent of all arrivals.

Hong Kong, together with Macau, accounted for 16 percent while the US contributed 13 percent.

While stepping up publicity programs, the bureau has been working to improve the tourism environment, including the updating of road signs and tourist information systems, Liu said.

"Initially foreign tourists may not increase at a fast pace, but we are confident the rise would gain momentum," he said.

The bureau targets the number of foreign tourists at 2.8 million this year, with the number forecasting to surge to 5 million in the year 2008.

Also seen as new potential markets are Singapore, South Korea and Malaysia.

The bureau did not target China as a potential foreign tourist source due to the restrictions between Taipei and Beijing.

The government last year eased a half-century ban on Chinese sightseers, allowing pleasure visits by those living overseas for more than four years and permitting those making overseas business trips to stop here.

Only around 1,000 Chinese tourists visited the country as of November, according to the head of the Tai-wan Travel Agents Association Johnson Tseng (曾盛海).

Another 153,000 Chinese visited in the first nine months of last year for reasons such as family reunions, cultural and sports exchange programs, academic events and international conferences.

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