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Taiwan sees record-highs in overseas tourist arrivals in Q1

TAIPEI -- The number of tourists from abroad who visited Taiwan in the first quarter of 2014 reached 1.65 million, setting a record high, the Tourism Bureau said Thursday.

A total of 2.3 million people from overseas visited Taiwan during the first three months this year, a 23.8 percent year-by-year growth, the bureau said.

Roughly 72 percent came to Taiwan for leisure purposes, it said.

The momentum in the travel sector has benefited airport performance as well, the bureau said. Airports across Taiwan handled over 12 million passengers in Q1, a 10.3 percent annual increase representing a 15-year high.

The Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, the country's main gateway, also handled a record high of 8.04 million passengers during Q1, an 11 percent growth compared with Q1 of last year.

Monitoring Turmoil in Thailand

The Tourism Bureau said yesterday it is keeping a close eye on the political unrest in Thailand so that it can respond quickly to any emergencies that might occur among Taiwanese travelers there.

The bureau said it is offering travel safety advice to Taiwanese tour groups and will monitor the situation in the Southeast Asian country in case a state of emergency is declared in the capital Bangkok and surrounding areas.

Roget Hsu, secretary-general of the Travel Agent Association of the Republic of China, said the travel industry and the government will work on contingency plans if tensions continue to rise in Thailand.

On Wednesday, a Thai court ordered Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to step down after finding her guilty of violating the country's Constitution by abusing her power.

Her opponents said they will stage a “final offensive” in Bangkok on Friday to achieve their goal of dislodging the government, while her supporters are planning a rally on Saturday and have vowed that any further attempts to oust the government will be met with force, according to international news wire reports.

Maintain South Korean Travel Momentum

The Tourism Bureau said yesterday that it will launch new campaigns to maintain the momentum of visits by tourists from South Korea, prompted by concern that the recent ferry sinking there could affect people's willingness to travel overseas.

The number of South Korean tourists visiting Taiwan reached some 150,000 during the first quarter of 2014, marking a year-on-year growth of 91.42 percent, bureau data shows.

However, the bureau said it is uncertain whether the surge will continue, as South Korean would-be travelers have reined in their spending since the sinking last month of the South Korean ferry the Sewol, which left nearly 300 people dead, mostly children.

There have already been cancellations by South Korean tour groups such as graduation trips — which usually contribute a lot to Taiwan's travel market performance — the bureau said.

The bureau said it will send a delegation to South Korea later this month to discuss better promotional campaigns with tour agencies there.

The bureau said it will also provide new incentives for South Korean tourists, such as offering them complimentary train tickets and other discounts.

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