The Bureau of Tourism yesterday kicked off 2004 Visit Taiwan Year with the largest promotional event it has ever held, spending over NT$12 million to bring a few of Taiwan's attractions to Tokyo in an effort at boosting declining tourism figures.
"Last year, only 650,000 Japanese tourists came to Taiwan, a sharp decline from the 980,000 who visited in the previous year," said bureau director Su Cherng-tien (
Given the sharp dive that tourist numbers took during the SARS outbreak last year, the government designated this year as 2004 Visit Taiwan Year and has allocated NT$200 million for the promotion of tourism.
Lin said that the theme of yesterday evening's event, "Taking the Shinkansen [the High Speed Railway] to Taiwan," was designed to coincide with the completion of the first high-speed-railway passenger cars on Friday and highlight the cooperation that existed between the two nations.
Lin told his Japanese audience that beginning next year, they would be able to ride the high-speed-railway system in Taiwan as well as in Japan.
Attended by several high profile figures, including Policy Advisor to the President Alice King (
The government also offered 110 people in the audience a four-day vacation package to Taiwan. Taiwanese specialties such as pearl milk tea and Tainan noodles were offered as well.
"Our main focus is to boost international press coverage and to bring in a total of 3.2 million visitors this year," said Su explaining that the free vacation packages given out at the banquet were also a chance to invite the local press to visit Taiwan.
"We probably will not be making back what we spend for these events this year, but this is really just a warm up for 2008," Lin said. The ministry's goal is to reach 5 million tourists a year in Taiwan by 2008.
According to Su, surveys from 2002 indicated that travelers to Taiwan stay 7.2 days and spend US$205 a day on average. The total revenue brought in by tourism in 2002 was US$4 billion.
The promotional banquet is the first of a series of similar events. Chang Shuo-lao (張學勞), chairman of the Taiwan Visitors' Association, said that events were also scheduled for Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Britain, Australia and the US.
According to Su, NT$70 million had been budgeted for a total of 12 such banquets this year.
The minister also announced special tourism policies for Japanese travelers earlier in the day when he had met with several travel industry representatives.
The policy would award a subsidy of ?800,000 (approximately US$8,000) for chartered flights to Taiwan, giving additional discounts to those who did not fly to the CKS or Kaohsiung airport, but rather make use of the Hualien, Taitung, Penghu and Taichung airports.
In addition, tourists will be able to visit the Taipei National Museum free of charge all of this year and tourism passes to be issued in April will give tourists exclusive discounts at contracted restaurants, stores, and hotels.
* Tourism officials will also visit Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Britain, Australia and the US.
* Twelve banquets are scheduled for 2004, costing NT$70 million.
* Discounts on flights to Taiwan will also be put into effect.
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