Bureau eyes SE Asia to hit 9m visitors goal

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

Mon, Jan 06, 2014 - Page 3

To attain the government’s goal of having 9 million tourists visit the nation this year, the Tourism Bureau said it is aiming to tap the tourism markets of Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

The number of visitors to hit the 8-million mark on the final day of last year, a feat that encouraged Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) to set the bureau the further challenge of adding a million tourists to last year’s tally, the bureau said.

“It [attracting 9 million visitors] is going to take a lot of work, but the bureau will try its best,” bureau Deputy Director-General Wayne Liu (劉喜臨) said.

According to Liu, Taiwan has already drawn more than 1 million visitors from each of the following areas: China, Japan, Hong Kong and Macau, with Southeast Asian countries tipped to be the next region to hit that benchmark, he said.

The Southeast Asian nations that the bureau wants to target include Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines, Liu said, adding that it categorizes Singapore as being in the same market as Australia and New Zealand.

Vietnam’s booming economy has produced a new generation of Vietnamese who can afford to travel abroad, he said.

Liu said that the key to achieving the 9 million annual goal is streamlining visa application procedures for tourists from Southeast Asia. Currently, travelers from this region can apply for a tourist visa to Taiwan online if they hold valid visas for either the US, Canada, Japan, or the EU.

“Japan succeeded in attracting high-end tourists from Thailand by waiving visa requirements for Thais,” Liu said as an example.

Meanwhile, Emirates Airlines’ launch of direct flights from Taipei to Dubai this year is expected to boost the number of tourists from the Middle East, a market that the bureau has been working on developing for six years, the bureau deputy director-general said.

To this end, the bureau wants to create a Muslim-friendly environment, in particular by increasing the number of certified Halal or Halal-friendly restaurants, Liu added.

To solidify Taiwan’s hold in established tourism markets, the bureau is bidding to increase the volume of travelers from Hong Kong and Macau by promoting the nation as a “holiday getaway” destination and increasing the frequency of charter flights to Hualien and Taitung, Liu said.

In addition, given the growing number of flights to Shizuoka, Fukushima, Ishikawa and other cities in Japan, the bureau plans to enlarge its marketing budget for these cities, Liu said, adding that it is also looking to draw more cruise ship visitors.