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Economic gloom may help travel fair: insiders

TAIPEI--Taiwan's sluggish economy and rising inflation could actually help invigorate the country's biggest travel fair this year because consumers will want to take advantage of bargains available at the show, tourism insiders said Wednesday.

The 2011 Taipei International Travel Fair drew about 250,000 visitors and generated NT$1.5 billion (US$50 million) in sales, but the fair's organizer said it is expecting high numbers this year because of the economic downturn.

“Our experience is that whenever the economy is bad, both attendance and sales surge,” said Chen Ying-ting, a public relations officer with the Taiwan Visitors Association, the organizer of the event set to take place in late October.

Chen explained that aside from individual consumers looking for a deal, an increase in sales could also come from companies seeking low-priced packages to use as prizes in lucky drawings held at their year-end banquets or as employee rewards.

Lion Travel Service Co. spokesman Andy Yu also expected good business at this year's show, saying that Taiwan's travel market has become mature enough to withstand weakness in the general economic environment.

“Unless there is an outbreak of war or disease or something like that, the market is unlikely to suffer dramatic fluctuations,” Yu said.

The latest external setback came last November, when severe flooding in Thailand slowed Taiwan's tourism momentum.

Some inbound tourists canceled their trips to Taiwan thinking it would also face flooding problems, and outbound tourists were reluctant to head to Southeast Asia, Yu said.

Huang Hsien-tsai, vice president of Phoenix Tours International Inc., said the company is expecting its sales during the fair to rise 10 percent from the NT$150 million in business it did last year.

“The public's desire to travel remains high, which may be because people feel they need a break after working so hard to make ends meet,” he said.

More than 1,000 exhibitors from 60 countries are registered to participate at this year's show, which will be held Oct. 26-29.

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