The number of tourists from Hong Kong and Macau could exceed 1 million this year, Minister of Transportation and Communications Mao Chi-kuo (毛治國) said yesterday, adding that the two special administrative regions of China would together become the third region to hit the 1 million tourists benchmark, following Japan and China.
Mao, who made the statement at the opening ceremony of the Taipei International Travel Fair (ITF), said the number of inbound tourists could exceed 7 million this year. The number of outbound tourists could reach 10 million this year, up from 9.5 million last year.
Vice President Wu Den-yih (吳敦義), American Institute in Taiwan Director Christopher Marut and dignitaries from other countries also attended the opening.
With the US announcing Taiwan’s inclusion in its visa waiver program on Oct. 2, Wu said the number of Taiwanese applying to visit the US from Oct. 2 until yesterday had increased 10 percent.
He estimated that Taiwanese tourism to the US could see growth of 150 percent within a year after the inclusion of Taiwan in the program.
Statistics from Taiwan’s Tourism Bureau showed that approximately 400,000 Taiwanese tourists traveled to the US last year.
The nation began hosting the annual travel fair 26 years ago. Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Macau, Guam and Hawaii are among the countries and regions that have sent representatives to attend the fair since then.
This year, the four-day fair features 850 exhibitors from 60 countries. They include airlines, travel agencies, restaurants, hotels and government agencies.
The fair was not opened to the public until noon, but people had started lining up at Hall 1 of the Taipei World Trade Center early yesterday morning. Many of them have come to find package tours for the Lunar New Year holiday from Feb. 2 to Feb. 17 next year.
The ITF Organizing Committee said visitors could expect many discounted deals at the fair. A South Korean airline company, for example, has offered round-trip tickets to South Korea at NT$1,000 for early buyers. EVA Airways, on the other hand, offers a five-day tour to Guam at a starting price of NT$17,888, which covers both the flight tickets and accommodation. However, consumers were advised to read the fine print in their contracts.
Taiwan Visitors Association chairman Chang Chia-juch (張家祝) said that approximately 250,000 visitors came to the fair last year, with transactions made on the spot topping NT$1.5 billion (US$512,3 million). He said the association estimated that the figures in both categories would increase this year.