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8 millionth foreign visitor says Taiwan trip was unforgettable

TAIPEI -- The 8 millionth foreign visitor to Taiwan of 2013, who was showered with gifts upon arrival, said yesterday that her trip to the country has been unforgettable.

“This is a memory I will never forget,” said Aya Omote, who is visiting Taiwan on a four-day honeymoon with her husband Syuhe.

The couple were given NT$500,000 (US$16,781)-worth of gifts that included several round-trip air tickets between Taiwan and Japan, various hotel accommodations, a tablet computer, amusement park tickets and numerous Taiwanese souvenirs.

A first-time visitor to Taiwan, Omote said the people in the country have been very friendly to her wherever she went. “I'm very touched,” she said.

Since their arrival, the 32-year-old said she and her husband had enjoyed the New Year's Eve countdown and fireworks at Taipei 101, visited night markets and tasted xiaolongbao (small steamed buns) at the Din Tai Fung restaurant chain.

They were planning to visit historic Jiufen Township later in the day, but have decided to save the National Palace Museum for a future visit, Omote said.

After returning to Japan, Omote said they will promote Taiwan as a travel destination.

The couple arrived at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport at 1 p.m. on Dec. 31.

Taiwan recorded 7.3 million foreign visitors in 2012 and had projected 7.7 million for 2013, a target that was attained Dec. 21.

Transportation Minister Yeh Kuang-shih attributed the record figure to the government's cross-Taiwan Strait policies, which have boosted the number of Chinese travelers to Taiwan.

“Over the past five years, our international visitors have more than doubled,” Yeh said.

He said his ministry's next goal is to ensure better travel quality for visitors and to attract more tourists from Southeast Asia, Europe, the United States and other places.

So far, the largest groups of travelers to Taiwan are from China and Japan.

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