Wed, Jan 12, 2011 - Page 12 News List

EU visa-free perks will start paying off in spring: agencies

Staff writer, with CNA

The benefits of the EU visa waiver that took effect yesterday will not become apparent in Taiwan’s travel industry until the spring, local travel agencies said.

Taiwanese visitors are now permitted to enter 35 European countries visa-free for stays of up to 90 days within a six-month period.

However, because of recent snowstorms in Europe, sales for travel to Europe during the Lunar New Year early next month are barely at the same level as last year, according to the nation’s travel industry.

“I don’t think the market will benefit from this program until March or April when the weather gets better,” said Vincent Lin (林承瞱), vice president of Lion Travel Service Co (雄獅旅行社).

Other agencies said that with the economic situation improving and oil prices on the rise, airfares have also risen significantly, which has made it difficult for the travel industry to achieve a balance.

In addition, many airlines have shifted their focus to flights across the Taiwan Strait because of huge market demand, which has left a relative shortage of Europe-bound flights and compounded the industry’s woes, the agencies said.

“In light of these factors, many European travel packages on the market this season could be NT$20,000 higher than before,” said Curtis Chao, manager of Best Way Travel Service Co (百威旅遊).

Chao said the savings of NT$3,000 as a result of the visa waiver was not a particularly attractive incentive for his customers.

However, tourism industry stakeholders said the visa-waiver program allows for greater flexibility and convenience in arranging tours, therefore, the long-term market prospects look good.

The convenience of being able to travel across European borders without needing a visa was one of the main selling points, they said.

“Our special offer of cheaper travel across Europe by rail is a new product that takes advantage of the visa-waiver program,” said Jessica Chiang (江柳螢), public relations officer at ezTravel Co (易遊網).

“We are very optimistic that it will take off in the spring when the weather improves and more people are expected to travel under the visa-free program,” she said.

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