Taiwan last year welcomed more than 6 million visitors in a single year for the first time ever on strong growth from an unexpected source, while travel industry experts said they expect visitor numbers to continue to rise in spite of challenges.
The Chinese surge was expected to continue last year, but it ended lower than originally expected. Instead, it was Japan that was the biggest contributor to the roughly 10 percent rise in total arrivals and in the sub-category of leisure visitors.
“We originally estimated a drop [from Japan] because of the March 11 earthquake,” said Roget Hsu (許高慶), secretary-general of the Travel Agent Association of the Republic of China.
However, a stronger Japanese yen and closer ties between Taiwan and Japan after the March 11 disasters because of Taiwan’s strong show of support “may have driven Japanese travelers to come,” Hsu said.
Total arrivals from Japan were up 19.1 percent from a year earlier as of the end of November, the latest period for which official figures were available, and they were expected to exceed 1.25 million for last year as a whole.
The jump was substantial for a country that had provided a steady 1 million visitors per year to Taiwan over the past decade.
However, there were doubts over whether Japan could provide further momentum this year.
“It will be difficult for next year to be better than this year,” said Liang Jung-yao, chairman of Kai Fa Travel Service Co.
Hurting potential growth this year would be increases in local hotel prices and if the Japanese yen did not remain strong, business would suffer, he said.
China was a disappointment, even though it remained the biggest source of visitors, accounting for about 30 percent of total arrivals.