The number of Taiwanese traveling to the Philippines has yet to return to normal since relations hit a low point over the death of a Taiwanese fisherman earlier this year, despite a recovery in diplomatic ties.
The Philippines has seen about 70 percent fewer Taiwanese visitors this year compared with last year, said May Yang, an assistant manager at Taipei-based Best Way Travel, who was speaking at the opening of the Taipei International Travel Fair yesterday.
Yang and other agents at the fair said they have found it hard to sell travel packages to Boracay and Cebu, two tourist destinations that have been extremely popular with Taiwanese travelers in earlier years.
“Why else would we have this ‘buy one, get one free’ package to Boracay this year? Sales have been terrible,” said Emily You, a sales representative at Star Travel Co.
Customers remain concerned that people in the Philippines will show hostility over the diplomatic row, she said.
The shooting in May of a Taiwanese fisherman by the Philippine Coast Guard led Taipei to levy sanctions on Manila, including a freeze to hiring laborers from the Philippines. The sanctions were lifted in early August.
The magnitude 7.2 earthquake that struck the central Philippine provinces this week has only further decreased interest, You said.
Statistics show that about 180,000 Taiwanese citizens travel to the Philippines annually. The country saw only 6,700 Taiwanese visitors in August this year, a 64.55 percent year-on-year drop.
Representatives from the Philippine Department of Tourism said they are working closely with local tour operators to turn their fortunes around, including offering incentives, such as a lucky draw at the fair, worth up to NT$500,000 in travel allowances.