Fri, Oct 05, 2012 - Page 5 News List

Tourism operators prepare for influx

Staff writer, with CNA

The Hawaiian tourism office in Taiwan launched a promotional tour package on Wednesday in cooperation with local travel agencies to take advantage of a potential tourism boost from Taiwan’s inclusion in the US’ Visa-Waiver Program.

The Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau’s office in Taipei said the seven-day tour would depart from Taiwan on Nov. 1 — the day Taiwan’s US visa-waiver status takes effect — and will cost under NT$70,000 (US$2,380) per person.

The tour will take participants to Pearl Harbor, Diamond Head and other popular destinations, the office said.

The US Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday announced that Taiwan had been granted membership in the visa-waiver program. Under the program, Republic of China passport holders will be granted visa-free stays of up to 90 days in the US.

Meanwhile, Lo Tsai-ling, marketing director at California-based Kirk Vacation, welcomed Taiwan’s inclusion in the program and said he expected the number of Taiwanese tourists in the US to increase by 15 to 20 percent in the early stages after the visa-waiver policy takes effect.

The increase will be even bigger if airlines and hotels offer more promotional deals, he said.

Ho Chia-yen, director at Ho Ho Travel in Los Angeles, said many tours to the US west coast that target Taiwanese tourists have lowered their prices by 10 percent to attract business.

Taiwanese expatriates who operate bed-and-breakfast lodgings in New York said that since the announcement was made, they have received many more inquiries than usual from potential Taiwanese tourists and expected admission to the Visa-Waiver Program to give their businesses a boost.

One bed-and-breakfast operator in Queens, who identified himself only as Steven, said many backpackers from Taiwan have chosen to go to Europe instead of the US in recent years because they can enter the Schengen Area visa-free, while they had to pay NT$4,800 for a US visa.

He said that many of them are now likely to travel to the US and he expected B&Bs operated by Taiwanese and Chinese expatriates to benefit, because they are relatively inexpensive and the owners can speak Chinese.

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