Wed, Sep 07, 2016 - Page 1 News List

Cabinet unveils plans to boost tourism

CATCHALL:The government is to boost domestic tourism, relax visa requirements for Southeast Asian visitors and cater to Muslim tourists, among other measures

By Lee Hsin-fang and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

The Executive Yuan has laid out seven plans to stabilize and revitalize the tourism industry following a sharp drop in the number of Chinese tourists.

The central government will offer financial packages to travel agencies that are experiencing difficulties due to the decline in the number of Chinese tourists, the Executive Yuan said.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs said it would assist the agencies to obtain funds and would consider offering loans, adding that it will also offer consultation, facilitate mergers and mediate between creditors and the agencies.

The government also pledged to encourage domestic travel to support the tourism industry, with measures such as boosting the usage of Citizen’s Travel Cards, encouraging corporations to offer tours to their employees and organizing field trips for students and at community centers for older people.

The government would launch a one-year trial period for 30-day visa waivers to travelers from Thailand and Brunei, as well as offering conditional visa waivers to other Southeast Asian nations, the Executive Yuan said.

The Ministry of Transportation and Communications estimated that the number of Southeast Asian tourists would increase by 280,000 annually and generate NT$130 million (US$4.14 million) in tourism revenue.

In preparation for an influx of Southeast Asian tourists, the National Immigration Agency is helping immigrants from those nations and their children to prepare for tour guide examinations, the Executive Yuan said, adding that it would encourage universities to establish courses for Southeast Asian languages.

The Ministry of Labor is planning to relax the standards for immigrants applying for work permits, while the Ministry of Examination plans to increase the number of tests and examination materials for Southeast Asian language tour guides.

As several Southeast Asian nations have a Muslim majority, the government is seeking to establish areas and facilities that would be more friendly to Muslims, the Executive Yuan said, adding that the government is seeking to have 100 restaurants obtain halal food certification.

The government is seeking to establish prayer rooms for Muslims in transport hubs, scenic spots and malls, the Executive Yuan said, adding that it would assist in the planning of tour routes and education at travel agencies for Muslim tourists.

To ensure that Southeast Asian travelers are aware of Taiwan’s plans, the government is increasing its advertisement budget from NT$80 million in fiscal 2016 to NT$200 million in fiscal 2017, it said.

Among the expenses would be the inspection and potential replacement of English-language signs in scenic areas, the Executive Yuan said.

As an additional incentive for ASEAN businesspeople to visit Taiwan for business and pleasure, the Ministry of Finance is to increase the number of stores that offer tax refund services and the number of foreign currency exchange kiosks.

Minister Without Portfolio Chang Ching-sen (張景森) yesterday met with officials from the transportation ministry and other agencies to finalize a deal to minimize clashes during a planned protest on Saturday by tourism business operators.

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