Tue, Oct 09, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Figures highlight tourism deficit, but not all agree

By Hsiao Yu-hsin and Sherry Hsiao  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

The tourism deficit last year topped NT$300 billion (US$9.7 billion) for the first time, with the cumulative tourism deficit over the past four years reaching NT$1 trillion, Tourism Bureau statistics showed yesterday.

The deficit — the difference between the amount of money Taiwanese spend on travel abroad and the amount spent by foreign visitors and domestic tourists — has been widening since 2011, a bureau report showed.

The deficit reached NT$159.6 billion in 2014 and the next year it surpassed NT$200 billion for the first time to reach NT$205.3 billion, while last year it was NT$374 billion, the report said.

The steady rise in overseas travel by Taiwanese shows that they are fairly well-off, Hwang Cheng-tsung (黃正聰), an associate professor in Providence University’s department of tourism, said on Sunday.

They have visited all parts of the nation and now want to travel abroad, he said.

Taiwanese last year spent NT$748.9 billion on overseas travel, a 3.7 percent increase from 2016, Kao Ming-tu (高洺塗), convener of the Travel Agent Association’s policy development committee, said yesterday.

The average spending per person on overseas travel fell from about NT$49,000 to about NT$47,000, showing that while there has been a decline in spending, the number of people traveling abroad has increased, primarily due to an increase in low-cost flights, he said.

The total amount that Taiwanese spend on overseas travel this year is expected to be more than NT$780 billion, and that number is likely to continue to increase, while the domestic tourism industry has been unable to increase foreign spending, Kao said.

However, National Kaohsiung University of Hospitality and Tourism vice president Liu Hsi-lin (劉喜臨) said Taiwan does not have a tourism deficit problem, although there is a big gap between outbound and inbound tourism.

The two segments are separate markets and should not be compared, he said.

Even when Taiwanese travel abroad, this still benefits Taiwanese travel agencies, he said, adding that increased travel abroad is an expression of national power and not necessarily a bad thing.

Nevertheless, the domestic tourism market has a lot of room for improvement and the inbound tourism market could also be improved, he said.

The Tourism Bureau has long used visitor numbers as a key performance indicator, but actual spending by travelers is what people really care about, he said.

Since the government has already begun tapping the markets of nations targeted by the New Southbound Policy, it should think about which products tourists want to buy, he said.

Tourist satisfaction and return rates are important indicators, and an increase in tourist satisfaction shows that tourists enjoy travelling in Taiwan, Liu said, adding that these are the kinds of tourists that the nation should be targeting.

Kao said Taiwan should be seeking to attract international theme park brands, such as Disney or Universal Studios, which could help attract more foreign visitors.

The government should also consider the possibility of lifting the ban on gambling, since Singapore’s tourism grew by 25 percent in the four years after its first casino opened in 2010, while Japan is expected to open a casino next year, he said.

Casinos would attract foreign visitors and also lower the unemployment rate, he said.

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