The Cabinet yesterday vowed to double the tourism industry’s foreign exchange earnings to US$9 billion by 2012.
If it reaches its goal, this would increase the industry’s contribution to GDP to more than 2 percent.
The Tourism Bureau said Taiwan earned US$5.137 billion last year in foreign exchange revenue in the tourism sector from about 3.84 million foreign tourists, accounting for 1.34 percent of GDP.
Data compiled by the bureau showed that this percentage was lower than Thailand’s 6.35 percent, Hong Kong’s 6.65 percent and Malaysia’s 7.52 percent, while it was higher than Japan’s 0.21 percent, South Korea’s 0.06 percent and China’s 1.14 percent.
The Cabinet yesterday approved a tourism plan that set the goal of attracting an additional 1.6 million foreign tourists per year in a four-year period, aiming for 5.5 million by 2012. The government said it expected Chinese tourists to make up 70 percent of the additional tourists, totaling 1 million people.
To meet the goal, the government will set up a NT$30 billion (US$889.5 million) tourism development fund, with 60 percent coming from airport service charges and the other 40 percent from the treasury, said Janice Lai (賴瑟珍), director-general of the bureau.
Lai said the fund was expected to drive private investment of about NT$200 billion, create 400,000 jobs in the tourism industry and generate NT$250 billion in national tourism revenue during the period.
Under the plan, the government will transform different parts of the country to conform to the themes and characteristics of their specific tourist spots.
The government hopes to attract tourists to visit northern Taiwan with its fashion, design, pop music and the cultural heritage of late dictator Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) and his son Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國).
Central Taiwan will showcase its flowers and leisure agriculture, while southern Taiwan offers visitors a choice of historical sites, oceans and beaches.
Eastern Taiwan may attract tourists with its leisurely pace of life, Lai said.
She added that the Penghu islands would be developed into a holiday destination, while the islands of Kinmen and Matsu could attract tourists interested in military-related sites.
Minister of Transportation and Communications Mao Chi-kuo (毛治國) said at a separate press briefing yesterday that each county could propose charismatic scenic spots that have the potential to attract international tourists.
“From their proposals, the Tourism Bureau will then choose about 10 scenic spots and help the local governments redevelop these places with NT$300 million every two years,” Mao said.
Funding could continue for an additional two years if the local governments pass an evaluation, he added.
“The point is that each county must be able to use the NT$300 million and create revenue of up to 10 times that amount,” he said.
In related news, the government yesterday proposed a bill to boost the country’s cultural and creativity industries.
The plans however failed to include requests to grant individuals tax deductions for spending on cultural activities, as suggested by some industry figures.
Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) and Minister of Council for Cultural Affairs (CCA) Huang Pi-twan (黃碧端) had considered the tax deduction idea, but the CCA agreed to back down after the Ministry of Finance (MOF) opposed it.