Taiwanese visits to Japan up 50% in first half

Staff writer, with CNA

Fri, Aug 23, 2013 - Page 5

Taiwanese made 1.11 million visits to Japan in the first half of the year, 50 percent more than a year earlier, Tourism Bureau statistics showed.

Japan has long been a favorite destination for Taiwanese and the recent depreciation of the Japanese yen has helped fuel the outbound tourism boom, tour operators said.

They expect Taiwanese to make a record 2 million visits to Japan this year.

In contrast, the number of Japanese visitor arrivals in Taiwan fell by about 8 percent to 660,000 in the first half of the year. Tourism officials said the yen’s depreciation might have dampened Japanese interest in traveling abroad for pleasure.

Tour operators also voiced concern that Japan’s granting of visa-free privileges to Thai citizens from July 1 could adversely affect Thai tourist arrivals in Taiwan.

The government should offer similar visa-free privileges to Thai passport-holders, they said, with some projecting that the number of Thais visiting Taiwan could fall by at least 10 percent.

Visitor arrivals from Thailand in the first half of the year rose 2.88 percent from a year earlier to 52,824, after falling 5 percent year-on-year last year to 97,712, Tourism Bureau statistics showed.

Meanwhile, a survey by Japan’s Interchange Association conducted last year found that 43 percent of Taiwanese respondents cited Japan as their most-favored foreign destination.

The figure exceeded those who said they favor the US, Singapore or China, the Japanese representative office in Taiwan said.

According to the Japanese office’s survey, Taiwanese like Japan because of its natural environment and other attractions, including folk culture, Japanese cuisine, ancient architecture, street life and clean surroundings.

Tokyo is the top Japanese choice among Taiwanese, followed by Osaka, Kyoto, Chiba and Hokkaido.

Since the beginning of this year, interest in Japanese tours has been strong, travel agencies said.

A five-day Tokyo tour package costs between NT$26,000 and NT$36,000 during the off-season, and an extra NT$2,000 during peak season.

Tour packages to view Japan’s famed cherry blossoms, maple leaves and snowscape, as well as family tours and spa tours, are especially popular, they said.

A travel agency operator added that the focus of Japan tours has changed in recent years.

In the past, Taiwanese liked to visit as many tourist attractions as possible in a few days

“However, the style has changed. Nowadays, people like to arrange family tours and visit just a few select destinations,” the tour operator said.

Some young women have even organized backpacking trips focusing on visiting specialty shops and tasting local dishes or experiencing folk culture, the tour operator said.