The March earthquake and tsunami in Japan, a deadly derailment on the Alishan Forest Railway in April and a plasticizer food scare have dragged down growth in international tourist arrivals, which rose only 5 percent in the first six months of this year, the Tourism Bureau said last week.
Statistics from the bureau showed that 2.85 million international tourists arrived between January and June, a 5 percent growth compared with the same period last year.
Tourism Bureau Director--General Janice Lai (賴瑟珍) said that despite the modest growth, the bureau had no intention of adjusting its goal of receiving 6.5 million international visitors this year.
About 5.57 million international tourists visited the nation last year. The bureau originally raised the goal this year to 6 million, but the Executive Yuan raised the goal by another 500,000 tourists.
Meanwhile, Lai said that about 12,000 Chinese tourists had obtained travel passes issued by the Public Security Department in China to visit Taiwan as free and independent travelers (FIT).
The FIT policy has been under scrutiny lately as it drew only 500 tourists in the first month after the policy was launched.
At present, only people from Shanghai, Beijing and Xiamen are allowed to visit as FITs. Taiwan and China agreed to cap the number of Chinese FITs at 500 a day at in the initial stage.
Lai said 4,790 permits had been given in Shanghai since June, 28, 4,780 in Beijing and 2,490 in Xiamen. However, Lai said the National Immigration Agency had reviewed only 1,717 applications for travel permits. A total of 1,356 have been issued. Lai said both sides would review the FIT policy next month to try to further streamline application procedures.