Thu, Nov 18, 2004 - Page 16 News List

Sharing the beauty of Taiwan

The Taipei International Travel Fair was launched 10 years ago and is now the biggest travel fair in the region

By Diana Freundl  /  STAFF REPORTER

PHOTO: TAIPEI TIMES

Taiwan does not see as many tourists as its Asian neighbors, but more Taiwanese visit neighboring countries than visitors from any other Asian nation. One in three Taiwanese travels abroad every year and this high number of outbound travelers has a reciprocal effect on the amount of prospective visitors to Taiwan, said Tourism Bureau Director-General Su Cheng-tien (蘇成田).

"We encourage those who go abroad to have contact with locals and share the beauty and culture of Taiwan. We realize it is not always easy to talk about our culture because of the language barrier, but it can be made easier with pictures or brochures. We are continually working on ways to get people to be ambassadors for Taiwan, as a form of self-promotion," he said.

Dubbed "2004 Visit Taiwan Year," the bureau originally set a target of 3.2 million visitors to the country this year. As of Oct. 31 the total was approximately 2.4 million. It's unlikely the total will exceed 3 million.

Su however, views the figures as more of a challenge than a defeat. "We are still learning, so we use trial and error to determine the best way to promote tourism. One thing we realized is the need to explore advertising as well as cooperating with more foreign tourist industries."

This is the logic behind the annual Taipei International Travel Fair (ITF, 台北國際旅展), which since its launch more than 10 years ago has become the largest of its kind in Asia. What began in 1991 as a small event focusing on local tourism has grown into an event involving 55 countries this year, the largest number of participants ever.

A collaboration between the Ministry of Transportation, the Tourism Bureau and the Taiwan Visitors Association (TVA), the four-day event offers travel resources from more than 700 booths and is expected to lure some 100,000 spectators, said Kitty Wong (黃潔儀), the marketing director of the TVA.

This year the fair will see a number of first time exhibitors who without needing an invitation made the choice to participate on their own, Wong said. "Taiwan has a steadily increasing number of people traveling overseas and these countries are seeing the potential of a very strong market here. Italy, Egypt, Slovakia, Mexico and Argentina are all new participating countries at this year's event.

As in previous years, the main target is local tourism, with 65 percent of the exhibitors focused on travel within Taiwan. It is expected however, that local participants will seize the opportunity to engage in dialogue with international buyers. Wong expressed specific concern for making local tours more appealing to the international market.

"A few local governments know how to promote their places of interest, yet most of the tours only target locals, so overseas visitors would not be able to join because of the language difficulties," Wong said.

"When the TVA attends local and county tourism conferences we always recommend they consider a wider market when designing tour packages."

In addition to the international community, organizers also want to attract the more budget conscious travelers.

Su said the inclusion of student travel associations and budget accommodation is to appeal to the younger generation [under 30 years of age]. Although students spend less money while traveling they tend to go abroad more often and stay for longer periods of time, he said. They account for 20 percent of the people who travel overseas.

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