Tue, Nov 07, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Number of visitors from overseas misses target

ASSUMPTION QUERIED The goal for international visits for this year was set on the premise that there would be an increase in Chinese visitor numbers

By Shelley Shan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Tourism Bureau Director-General Hsu Wen-sheng (許文聖) confirmed yesterday that the nation had once again fallen short of its goal of attracting 37.5 million overseas tourists this year.

As of last month, the bureau had recorded 28.6 million visits by foreign tourists -- just a 4 percent growth compared with the same period last year.

Hsu said the bureau estimated last year that the growth in tourist visits for this year would top 10 percent.

Hsu announced the numbers in a report to members of the Legislative Transportation Committee yesterday, which is scheduled to review the budget plan for the Tourism Bureau for the next fiscal year.

The failure to meet this year's goal drew criticism from legislators yesterday.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Wang Yu-ting (王昱婷) said yesterday that the goal was set last year based on the assumption that an increase in tourists from China would help the boost visits by foreigners this year.

Wang said that both Taiwan and China have established offices to handle cross-strait tourism, but said the bureau in Taiwan has done almost nothing to encourage more tourists from China to come.

"The goal will never be met if direct access remains closed to Chinese tourists," Wang said.

She also noted that Chinese tourists are often duped into paying more than Taiwanese for souvenirs, a phenomenon which eventually would come back to haunt the tourism industry.

KMT Legislator Huang Chao-shun (黃昭順) also questioned if the tourism office had a specific plan to bring more Chinese tourists to southern Taiwan.

In response, Hsu said that both sides had been talking about allowing Chinese tourists to visit without transiting through a third country.

Vice Minister of Transportation and Communications Ho Nuan-hsuan (何煖軒) said that the upcoming launch of the High Speed Rail would help facilitate tourist transportation when visitors move around the nation.

The tourists would be able to choose to arrive in Taipei or Kaohsiung and leave from either of the airports by using the new train service once it opens, she said.

According to the tourism bureau, a total of 22,190 Chinese tourists visited in April and May. However, the number quickly dropped during China's National Day holidays, with only about 2,100 Chinese visiting Taiwan.

The bus accident that occurred the day before the Mid-Autumn Festival this year also has brought concerns over tour quality to the forefront.

Chang Hsueh-lao (張學勞), president of the Taiwan Visitors Association, said in a seminar yesterday that traveling in Taiwan would lose its appeal with Chinese tourists within two to three years if operators fail to establish quality services for visitors.

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