Fri, Aug 23, 2019 - Page 3 News List

Government mulling expanding visa waiver and tourism subsidy programs

By Sean Lin  /  Staff reporter

The central government will carefully assess proposals by the Taipei City Government to expand its visa waiver and fall and winter domestic tourism subsidy programs to ASEAN member states and Middle Eastern nations in the wake of a tourism ban by China, Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) said yesterday.

Tseng made the remarks in response to proposals made by Taipei Deputy Mayor Teng Chia-chi (鄧家基) at a Cabinet meeting, citing potential impact from Beijing banning individual travel to Taiwan.

Teng said that, for example, the government could extend the visa waiver program to visitors from the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, and include tourist groups from these nations to the domestic tour subsidy program, as these countries are known for their “high-end” tourists with high purchasing power.

The Chinese government at the start of this month suspended a program that allowed individual travelers from 47 Chinese cities to visit Taiwan. Chinese now can only visit Taiwan as members of a tour group.

Su said that he would instruct the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Transportation and Communications to prudently assess Taipei’s proposals, as they would affect the nation’s overall tourism policy direction and might have national security implications.

Competent agencies should vigorously undertake the task of assessing the proposals and engage with the city government to identify ways that would serve the nation’s best interest, the premier said.

The nation’s tourism industry used to rely heavily on Chinese visitors, who at one point accounted for 40 percent of inbound tourism, he said, adding that overreliance made the tourism industry susceptible to risks.

To address this issue, the government has been trying to diversify its tourist base by assisting tourism businesses in reinventing their services and subsidizing domestic tours, he said.

Over the past three years, the number of non-Chinese international tourists increased by 1.2 million, reaching 8.37 million last year, he said.

“We should bravely set our sights on the world and not be overly fearsome of fluctuations in the Chinese market,” he said.

“This way, we can steadily grow the number of visitors to Taiwan each year,” the premier added.

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