The first-ever participation of a Chinese delegation in the Taipei International Travel Fair is set to steal the limelight of the four-day exposition opening today at the Taipei World Trade Center.
The 500-strong delegation, led by China's National Tourism Administration, will set up 255 booths this year, the first time in the fair's 20-year history that the Chinese travel industry has been involved.
"Their participation will enable real-time, precise information exchanges between both parties in Taiwan and China," Yeh Pi-hua (
Taiwanese are flocking to China for sightseeing and vice versa, and the fair will offer a channel of communication for the two sides on tourism issues, she said.
"This will be a warm up for more inbound Chinese tourists," Yeh said.
Taiwan's tourism industry has been gearing up for a possible opening to Chinese tourists by next month, but the government has yet to officially confirm a timeline.
Travel agencies such as South East Travel Service Co (
"This will definitely be a plus for our sales," said Paul Hsu (許永裕), vice president of South East Travel.
Citing industry estimates, he said the relaxation of the rules governing the numbers of Chinese tourists would generate at least NT$50 billion (US$1.5 billion) in annual sales in Taiwan.
To cash in on that, South East Travel has developed local travel packages ranging from five to 12 days to cater to Chinese travelers, with destinations in the north, center and south of Taiwan, as well as a round-the-country tour.
Hsu said the travel fair would be a perfect opportunity for local agencies to discuss possible cooperation efforts with their Chinese counterparts.
The rise of an affluent Chinese middle class in the recent years has grabbed international attention. Chinese government data showed a total of 31 million outbound Chinese tourists last year, and the number is expected to soar to 50 million by 2010.
Regardless of their political differences, the people of Taiwan should work together to establish Taiwan as a world-class travel destination, said hotelier Stanley Yen (嚴長壽), who runs the Landis Taipei hotel and is chairing this year's travel fair.
"Taiwan's tourism market has become more mature and we offer diversified services to all aspects of customers," Yen said.
Many travelers have fallen in love with the simple "bed and breakfast" accommodations scattered around the nation, and they are moved by Taiwanese friendliness, he said.
The Taipei International Travel Fair will run through Monday at the Taipei World Trade Center's Exhibition Hall I. Admission is NT$200.
Exhibitors from 58 countries have taken a total of 1,100 booths. They include domestic tourism bureaus, travel agencies, hotels and resorts, theme parks and transportation companies.
Though the fair promises lots of bargains, consumers should keep their eyes open and make comparisons to ensure they are spending their money wisely, the Consumer Protection Commission said yesterday. Consumers could call the "1950" helpline should any dispute occur, it said in a press release.