Quality key to capitalizing on tourism

QUALITY OVER QUANTITY::Bank of America Merrill Lynch said boosting quality rather than sheer numbers of tourists would avoid the frictions seen in Hong Kong

Staff writer, with CNA

Mon, Apr 08, 2013 - Page 14

The government should stress the improvements made to inbound travel quality, because the number of Chinese tourists might expand faster this year, Bank of America Merrill Lynch said in a recent report.

“Inbound tourism, which Taiwan has long overlooked in favor of manufacturing, is now much more of a government focus because it could transform Taiwan’s economy and make its growth less vulnerable to the global technology cycle,” Hong Kong-based Merrill Lynch economist Marcella Chow said.

“However, to ensure that the increasing number of visitors does not become a source of public grievance, like in Hong Kong, in our view it is essential that the government sets its sights on enhancing the quality, rather than quantity, of tourism,” Chow wrote in the report.

Based on data compiled by the Tourism Bureau, Taiwan had 7.3 million visitors last year, a 20.1 percent annual increase compared with the previous year, which surpassed growth in both the global and regional tourism markets by a wide margin.

Last year, worldwide growth in tourist arrivals is estimated at 3.8 percent, while the Asia-Pacific region, which saw the highest relative growth, expanded 7 percent, according to the UN World Tourism Organization.

Chow said that the surge in Chinese tourists to Taiwan, from 1.8 million in 2011 to 2.6 million last year, was the main reason for the country’s rapid growth in its overall visitor numbers.

Under a quota system, the number of Chinese tourists coming to Taiwan per day is capped at 4,000 group travelers and 1,000 independent tourists.

However, this month, it will be relaxed to 5,000 tourists in groups and 2,000 solo tourists, suggesting that the potential number could expand even faster going forward, Chow said.

“To fully embrace the potential of the tourism boom, the government needs to advance carefully with a well-thought-out, comprehensive plan,” Chow added.

The economist said Taiwan will need to meet the expectations of international tourists by improving the country’s tourism infrastructure and by building unique, high quality tourism products and services, which are key to enhancing its competitiveness as a tourist destination.

Policymakers should also ensure that the economic advantages of tourism are shared evenly, Chow said.

Chow added that rampant price competition between Chinese and Taiwanese operators is lowering the quality of prepaid tour packages.