Foreign visitors may reach 7 mil. this year
October 27, 2012, 12:01 am TWN
TAIPEI -- Foreign visitor arrivals to Taiwan are expected to break the 7-million mark this year, with significant growth in the number of tourists from Hong Kong and Macau, Transportation and Communications Minister Mao Chi-kuo said Friday.
Last year, visitor arrivals rose to 6.08 million, thanks to the government and public's efforts to create a better travel environment in Taiwan, Mao said at the opening of the 2012 Taipei International Travel Fair.
With a notable increase in the number of tourists from Hong Kong and Macau so far this year, visitor arrivals to Taiwan are expected to exceed 7 million for the whole of 2012, he said.
He forecast that the number of tourists from Hong Kong and Macau this year will break the 1-million mark for the first time, pushing the two special administrative regions into third place behind China and Japan as the largest source of visitors to Taiwan.
The number of tourists from Hong Kong and Macau increased 30 percent year-on-year in the first nine months of this year to 772,191, according to Tourism Bureau data.
A significant surge in buying was reported Friday at the 2012 Taipei International Travel Fair, with local travel agents predicting better sales than a year ago.
With tens of thousands of people flocking to the venues, travel agents agreed that the sluggish economy, the approach of several longer-than-usual holiday periods, and the recent inclusion of Taiwan in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program (VWP), have all contributed to unusually strong business at the country's largest travel fair.
"It's very different this year. I think the consumers have held themselves back for too long," said Kevin Chang, manager of ezTravel, a local travel agency.
Chang said his company expects to generate revenue of NT$200 million (US$6.8 million) at the fair, compared with NT$120 million in 2011.
Likewise, Lion Travel Service Co. said it is optimistic about its sales performance this year, forecasting a 20-percent year-on-year growth.
In addition, the VWP has played a crucial role in boosting interest in U.S. travel, said Raymond Chang, chairman of the Discover America Committee, which works closely with the American Institute in Taiwan to promote travel exchanges between the two countries.
With Taiwan's admission to the program Nov. 1, Taiwanese citizens will be freed from the cumbersome process of obtaining a U.S. visa at a cost of NT$4,800 per application.
The Oct. 26-29 fair, which has more than 1,000 booths and 60 countries represented, is expected to attract more than 250,000 visitors and create NT$1.5 billion worth of revenue, said the event's organizer.