Foreign visitor numbers could decrease as a result of an ongoing scare over the use of a banned industrial ingredient in food, tourism industry representatives said yesterday.
Travel Agent Association official Ko Mu-chou (柯牧洲) said that although no significant decline in inbound travel has been reported so far, the independent Japanese tourist segment could be the hardest-hit segment if the scare persists, because many Japanese who visit Taiwan on their own come specifically to sample its cuisine.
Several items on the Japanese gourmets’ must-try list have been mentioned as items possibly containing the banned ingredient, including rice noodles, hotpots and bubble tea with tapioca balls, Ko said.
Concerns over the safety of popular snack foods could also affect interest in visiting night markets, one of Taiwan’s most popular tourist attractions.
“The impact depends on how soon the government can fix the problem and regain consumers’ confidence,” Ko said.
Tourism Bureau Deputy Director-General Chang Hsi-tsung (張錫聰) also said the issue could hurt local tourism in the short term and he urged health authorities to tighten inspections so damage to the sector is limited.
In other news, the bureau yesterday signed a letter of intent with its Hong Kong counterpart to jointly promote the Asia-Pacific cruise market.
According to the terms of the letter of intent, the Tourism Bureau and the Hong Kong Tourism Board will cooperate to promote cruise liner business in the region by introducing routes to Taiwan and Hong Kong, as well as various cruise-liner travel products.
The two sides also announced that they have reached an agreement with Royal Caribbean International Cruises, with its liner the Mariner of the Seas adding routes between Taiwan and Hong Kong on Oct. 29 and Nov. 2.
Tourism Bureau Deputy Director General Wayne Liu (劉喜臨) said the global cruise industry is to focus on the Asia-Pacific market, with an estimated 11 million customers by 2030. As soon as 2015, it is forecast that there will be more than 7 million cruise liner passengers.
“With this outlook, the bureau is happy to work with the Hong Kong Tourism Board to tap the Asia-Pacific market,” Liu said, adding that the two sides will work toward attracting passengers in the region, as well as from Europe.
Peter Lam, chairman of the Hong Kong Tourism Board, said the signing of the letter is an important step toward tapping regional cooperation in cruise liner tourism.