The Tourism Bureau said it plans to launch a competition in March next year for the nation’s top 10 tours to encourage more people to travel by public transport.
Chen Kuei-hua (陳貴華), director of the bureau’s domestic tourism division, said on Thursday a survey showed that about 56 percent of international tourists came to Taiwan last year as independent travelers. Most did not book tours pre-arranged by travel agencies, she said.
Chen said the number of domestic tourists choosing to drive to travel destinations had dropped from 65.2 percent in 2010 to 60.9 percent last year.
“We felt the time was ripe to encourage more people to travel by public transport,” she said.
Chen said the bureau has succeeded in raising the quality of public transport to tourist attractions around the nation by introducing the Taiwan Tourist Shuttle Service.
The number of passengers rose from 760,000 in 2010 to 1.2 million as of last month.
She said the competition for the tours was part of the bureau’s campaign to encourage more people to use the public transport system.
Chen said that the public transport system is not limited to trains and buses, adding that tourists can gain access to some scenic spots on a cart, which also counts as public transportation.
Based on the bureau’s plan, every county or city is entitled to recommend their fun tours.
The experts’ evaluation, which accounts for 80 percent of the score, would focus on several factors, including the choice of scenic spots, accessibility by public transportation, how friendly the tour is to travelers and the availability of accommodation and other facilities.
The remaining 20 percent of the score is to be determined by online votes from the public, she said.
“We hope that the competition might motivate local governments to make scenic spots within their administrative areas more travel-friendly, and that public bus operators might rethink their business models to try and combine public transportation and tourism,” Chen said.
Chen also hoped the competition could shape the nation’s image as a safe place for young and female travelers.
County governments interested in joining the competition can submit their recommended tours to the bureau. Voting and the evaluation will begin in March or April next year, and the results will be announced either in May or June, she said.
In related news, Minister of Transportation and Communications Mao Chi-kuo (毛治國) said the ministry is in talks with the National Immigration Agency about allowing travelers arriving in the country on cruise ships to apply for multiple-entry visas.
Mao said that Keelung Port has the potential of becoming an operational base for international cruise lines, and the ministry hopes that travelers could stop at at least two ports in the nation.
At present, travelers arriving by cruise ship must apply for a re-entry visa if they want to stop at a second seaport in the nation.