Thu, Jan 12, 2012 - Page 2 News List

Longer holiday fuels boom in overseas travel

MORE FUN:Because the long vacation period allows for flexible arrangements, interest in travel to foreign destinations is very high this year, tour operators say

Staff Writer, with CNA

Outbound travel is expected to boom during the Lunar New Year holiday, fueled by a longer-than-usual vacation period and visa-waiver programs from 126 countries, travel industry insiders said yesterday.

The holiday, which lasted six days last year, but extends from Jan. 21 to Jan. 29 this year, is likely to help outbound tourism because it allows for more flexible travel arrangements, industry representatives said.

Lion Travel Co said the longer holiday has increased demand for long-haul travel, especially to destinations in North America and Europe.

Interest in travel to the US received an additional boost when the US announced recently that Taiwan had become a candidate in its visa-waiver program.

Though the candidacy does not in itself allow Taiwanese passport holders to travel to the US visa-free, the development has resulted in more people considering the US as a possible destination, which could help Lunar New Year sales, company manager Chen Chung-ming said.

“Although the [visa-free] program has not yet hit the road, people have asked about US travel packages a lot lately,” Chen said.

“The more information our clients get about a package tour, the more likely they [are to] book it,” he added.

Chen expected a 10 percent jump in travel to the US and a 40 percent increase to Canada during the Lunar New Year.

Phoenix Tours said outbound travel to Europe also showed promise, with its sales for travel to Europe up 10 percent to 20 percent from last year.

The company said its positive outlook was based mainly on the momentum generated by the EU’s granting of visa-waiver privileges to Taiwan in January last year.

Under the program, Taiwanese passport holders are allowed to enter 35 European countries or territories visa-free for stays of up to 90 days within a six-month period.

Benjamin Bian, general manager of Phoenix Tours’ operations department, said his company is scheduled to send more than 50 tour groups to European countries over the Lunar New Year holiday.

“The visa-waiver programs have been really helpful to the industry,” Bian said. “We have high hopes for sales for both the holiday period and the year in general.”

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