Attracting tourists from Southeast Asian nations is a key part of President Tsai Ying-wen’s (蔡英文) “new southbound policy,” according to official government budget figures.
Of the NT$4.5 billion (US$142 million) which the Executive Yuan has budgeted for the policy, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications — which includes the national Tourism Bureau — is to receive NT$200 million, while the Ministry of Culture is to get NT$100 million.
The funds are to be spent on making it more convenient for tourists to visit, as well as promoting tourism and Taiwanese culture.
Although the number of foreign tourists climbed almost 9 percent during the first half of this year according to Tourism Bureau statistics, the growth has been dampened since May by a decrease in the number of Chinese tourists.
The number of visitors from China, who comprise more than a third of foreign tourists, was down more than 15 percent in July when compared with last year, the latest month of statistics available on the Tourism Bureau’s Web site.
As part of efforts to encourage tourism from Southeast Asia, visa-free entry was expanded last month to include citizens of Thailand and Brunei.
This month, citizens of India, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines have also been granted conditional visa-free entry, if they can demonstrate that they have previously been issued a visa by the US, EU, Japan or South Korea.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lin Li-chan (林麗蟬), an immigrant from Cambodia, said that while Southeast Asian nations suffer from substantial income inequality, there are businesspeople and white-collar workers with disposable income who wish to travel overseas.
The conditional opening of visa-free entry could help attract wealthier people, Lin said, adding that there is substantial potential for development in a number of business sectors, including plastic surgery and luxury goods.
“Taiwan’s large amusement parks are also a major draw,” she said, as Cambodia and Laos do not have attractions like the Leofoo Water Park and Janfusun Fancyworld.
Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Hsu Chih-chieh (許智傑) said there is potential to develop boat tours around the nation similar to those available in Japan.
Hsu also urged the government to provide incentives for cruise ships to dock at the nation’s harbors.
Additional reporting by Abraham Gerber
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