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September 22, 2017

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What Chinese tourists might want to do besides shop

Premier Sean Chen sat down with the private sector Tuesday to discuss ways to upgrade Taiwan's tourism industry ahead of an anticipated jump in mainland Chinese tourism.

Based on projections by the Council of Economic Planning and Development (經建會), an additional 1,000 tourists each year could increase direct spending in Taiwan by nearly NT$23 billion, which accounts for 0.16 percent of the year's GDP forecast.

Financial targets like this are how the government touts mainland Chinese tourism to the Taiwan public. In the past four years, financial targets have also very strongly guided the government's strategies toward developing Taiwan's tourism sector — the conclusions of the roundtable are a typical example. Chen said Tuesday that the central administration will aim to host more festivals, build more accessible exhibitions and subsidize more travel, hotel and amusement venues in the tourism industry. In short, Taiwan will make it even easier for the Chinese to spend more.

Certainly, mainland Chinese tourism is steadily on the rise, so it could be that the current approach to "upgrading" the sector is enough for now. But it won't sustain numbers forever.

For Chinese tourists, touring Taiwan is a novelty, a way for them to experience a place they've only read about in books. But eventually, the mainland population that's interested in seeing Taiwan firsthand is going to run out. And once initial curiosity is sated, Chinese tourists are not liable to return unless they'd previously had a good — and not just satisfactory — tour experience.

What creates a good tour experience? A good tour is partly about unique and thrilling purchases, but it's also about positive social interactions with the host country.

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