The market outlook seems promising now that Taiwan is poised to open its doors to independent travelers from 10 more Chinese cities, local travel industry representatives said, adding that they expect about 60,000 to 70,000 more Chinese visitors each year.
The Travel Agent Association said the recently expanded free independent traveler (FIT) program suggests a market potential that could be worth about NT$4 billion (US$135.6 million) per year.
The FIT program, which is currently restricted to residents of Beijing, Shanghai and Xiamen, will be opened to those from Tianjin, Chongqing, Nanjing, Guangzhou, Hangzhou and Chengdu from April 28, the government announced last week.
The daily entry limit will also be raised from 500 to 1,000, while the program will be extended to travelers from the cities of Jinan, Xian, Fuzhou and Shenzhen later this year, the government said.
“If we continue on the current path of tourism exchanges with China, the FIT program is likely to be fully opened to Chinese nationals within two years,” Travel Agent Association secretary--general Roget Hsu (許高慶) said.
The Tourism Bureau has also expressed optimism about the program, saying that although initial figures after the FIT program began in June last year were not satisfactory, the numbers are growing fast.
Bureau statistics show that about 29,000 travelers visited under the program in the second half of last year.
However, the number jumped significantly to nearly 27,000 during the first three months of this year.
“We will launch a series of campaigns to further introduce Taiwan to Chinese travelers,” said Chen Chiung-hua (陳瓊華), bureau division deputy director.
The campaigns would include the use of microblogs to spread the word and other competitions offering subsidized visits to Taiwan, Chen said.
In one of the competitions, 30 from among nearly 400 candidate groups will be chosen based on their travel plans, the bureau said. They will receive free flight tickets and a NT$5,600 allowance.
The winners will need to submit “reflection papers” recounting their trips and those who turn in the best work will receive an additional cash prize, the bureau said.