Tue, Dec 04, 2018 - Page 2 News List

Bureau says 10 millionth visitor arrived on Sunday

LOW-KEY:Unlike previous years, there was no fanfare preceding the arrival of the 10 millionth visitor, as the Tourism Bureau aims for 11 million visitors this year

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

The nation’s 10 millionth international visitor this year arrived on Sunday night, the Tourism Bureau said, adding that it reached the goal two weeks earlier than last year.

This was the fourth year that the nation has drawn more than 10 million foreign visitors, with the number totaling 10.73 million last year, it said.

However, unlike in previous years, when the bureau would estimate when the 10 millionth international visitor would arrive, disclose the name of the person and shower them with gifts, it only issued a statement at about 10:40pm on Sunday.

It did not identify the visitor as it had done in previous years.

International visitors are likely to exceed 11 million this year, so it has set a “different, but equally significant” milestone and would celebrate reaching it, the bureau said, when asked about the lack of fanfare.

The earlier arrival of the 10 millionth visitor was because of the government’s New Southbound Policy, which aims to foster closer relations with nations in Southeast Asia, South Asia and Oceania, the bureau said.

As of October, tourists from the 18 nations named in the policy accounted for nearly a quarter of overall visitors this year, bureau data showed.

The number of visitors from the Philippines and Vietnam grew by 51 percent and 33 percent respectively compared with the same period last year, the bureau said.

Efforts by the public and private sectors to create a friendly environment for international visitors, enhance travel quality and diversify sources of tourists have paid off, it said.

More than 70 percent of international visitors this year were from China, Japan, South Korea, the US, Hong Kong or Macau, bureau data showed.

The number of Japanese visitors is likely to exceed 2 million this year, while those from South Korea could reach 1 million, it said.

This despite the disruption from earthquake in Hualien in February, which killed 17 people, it said.

Meanwhile, visitors from Southeast Asian nations are expected to increase 20 percent this year, while those from North America and Europe are to rise by 6 to 16 percent, the bureau said.

However, the bureau received criticism online.

Netizens said that they were skeptical about the government’s success in attracting tourists from Southeast Asia.

One asked the bureau to disclose tourism revenue figures, in particular the amount spent by foreign tourists.

Others asked whether the bureau knew if subsidies granted to visitors from Southeast Asia contributed to an increase in illegal workers from those countries.

In other developments, the bureau said it is considering an expansion of the winter travel subsidy program for local tourists to Yilan, Hualien, Taitung and Pingtung counties, as well as Kaohsiung, after the program was reported to be effective in raising hotel occupancy rates by 10 to 30 percent.

The revised program would not restrict the subsidies for visits to the five areas, but would be expanded to include other cities and counties.

Young travelers would receive higher subsidies under the revised program, which is to take effect next year, it said.

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Lee Kun-tse (李昆澤) said he estimated that the budget would rise to NT$2 billion (US$65 million) for the expanded program, adding that the bureau should focus on increasing repeat visits and encouraging people of all ages to travel domestically.

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