The nation could see a drop in international tourists this year due to a decline in Chinese tourists, the Tourism Bureau said yesterday.
International affairs division director Eric Lin (林坤源) said that independent Chinese tourists applying for entry permits to Taiwan from March 23 to April 5 this year dropped by 15 percent compared with a year ago, while those applying via tour groups decreased by 30 percent.
Should the trend continue, the number of international tourists could decrease for first time in 17 years, the bureau said.
Lin said that the tourism industry is vulnerable and that unforeseen events can affect it, such as food safety scares, outbreaks of a contagious disease or terrorist attacks. He said that the bureau is trying to stabilize the market.
“We have set a goal of having 10.75 million international tourists visit Taiwan this year, with a growth rate of 4.5 percent to 5 percent each year,” he said, adding that Chinese tourists account for 40 percent of visitors to Taiwan. “Growth of 10 percent or more, as we saw in February this year, would help to stabilize the market.”
Lin said about 1.78 million international tourists entered Taiwan between January and February this year, registering growth of 13.8 percent. Among them, 1.01 million were not from China, a category that grew by 20.5 percent.
Japanese tourists rose by 22.3 percent during the period, while those from South Korea grew by 21.94 percent.
Significant growth was seen in numbers of tourists from Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines and India after the Ministry of Foreign Affairs streamlined visa-application procedures since November last year. Overall, numbers of tourists from the five nations rose by 23.79 percent.
Tourists from Thailand increased by 54 percent. Tourists from Vietnam, India, the Philippines and Indonesia rose by 42 percent, 30 percent, 24 percent and 11 percent respectively.
Lin said there are 70 travel agencies in the five nations that arrange tours to Taiwan, while the bureau aims to promote customized tours for each market, like fruit-picking tours for tourists from Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia, and hot-spring tours for visitors from Japan and India.
The bureau also targets tourists arriving through incentive tours arranged by big corporations, as their purchasing power is about 1.5 times higher than other types of tourists, Lin added.
Lin said the bureau would pay for travel expenses of the company’s representatives who come to scout for potential travel destinations. Each tourist would get a travel subsidy of NT$800, rising to NT$1,000 per person if the company returns a second time, he said.