Nation lags HK in battle for Chinese tourists
October 15, 2012, 12:04 am TWN
TAIPEI -- Taiwan will not replace Hong Kong as a favorite destination for Chinese tourists in the next few years unless it loosens quota restrictions and invests more in hardware and infrastructure, Bank of America Merrill Lynch said in a recent report.
According to the National Immigration Agency, Chinese visitors to Taiwan exceeded 50,000 during China's Oct. 1-7 "Golden Week" this year — the second since Taiwan's introduction of the Chinese Free Independent Traveler scheme in June 2011.
The figure represents a 149 percent annual increase compared with the 21,611 Chinese tourists who visited during last year's Golden Week, according to the data.
Of the total, 39,143 were part of group tours, while 14,732 visited as individual tourists, a rise of 103 percent and 517 percent, respectively, from a year ago.
"This big leap in independent tourist numbers resembles the situation in Hong Kong in 2003, when the individual visit scheme was introduced there," said Marcella Chow, a Hong Kong-based economist at Merrill Lynch.
"However, as the quota system is still in place and the hardware (such as hotels and other related infrastructure) in Taiwan needs to catch up, we believe Hong Kong's leading position will go unchallenged for a while longer," he wrote in the report.
The scheme in Hong Kong does not set a quota limit and triggered an immediate surge in the number of visitors traveling to Hong Kong from China, the report said.
From July 28 to Nov. 4, 2003, more than 600,000 individuals from China applied to visit Hong Kong and 450,000 visas were issued, according to the report. The number of visitors under the scheme reached 2 million in May 2004.
However, a maximum of just 500 Chinese per day were allowed to enter Taiwan for two-week visits when Taiwan launched the Free Independent Traveler scheme in June 2011, the report said.
With a further relaxation in restrictions on cross-Taiwan Strait tourism, Taiwan has increased the daily quota to 1,000, while allowing up to 4,000 to enter as part of tour groups.
"Given the quota system, the number of Chinese tourists coming to Taiwan is capped and remains too small to contribute significantly to growth," Chow said.
One reason behind the government's reluctance to relax quota restrictions during the Golden Week holiday was to prevent tourism resources from being overstretched, thereby bringing down the quality of the tours, Chow noted.