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Ma hails Taiwan's tourism boom

TAIPEI -- President Ma Ying-jeou said Friday that Taiwan, which has seen foreign visitor numbers increasing by 1 million people annually over the past six years, has become an increasingly popular tourist destination.

“I never dreamed that Taiwan would become a tourism country,” Ma said while addressing the opening of the 2014 Kaohsiung International Travel Fair.

He named Taiwan's delicious food, beautiful scenery and friendly people, as well as its excellent cosmetic surgery and medical treatment services as the five assets of the country's tourism industry.

In 2013, the number of foreign visitors reached 8.01 million people, which represents a 215 percent increase from 2007, when the number was 3.71 million people, official statistics show.

According to a report presented by the Tourism Bureau at a youth forum held in Taipei Friday, 634 new hotels opened in Taiwan between July 2008 and March 2014, with 319 more set to open in the next two years, meaning that a new hotel is being opened in Taiwan every three days.

Over the past five years, meanwhile, 1,170 already existing hotels have been renovated, the bureau said.

During the eight years between 2008 and 2016, new investment in the hotel industry is expected to reach NT$300.6 billion (US$9.94 billion), it added.

Also at the forum, Transportation Minister Yeh Kuang-shih said Taiwan should work to add value to its tourism industry and adopt an innovative mindset to promote the industry's development.

Vietnam Riots to Have Limited Impact on Tourism: Minister

The anti-Chinese riots in southern Vietnam that have targeted several Taiwanese companies are not expected to have a substantial impact on bilateral tourism, according to Taiwan's Transportation Minister Yeh Kuang-shih.

Taiwanese tour groups still in Vietnam are unlikely to be affected by the riots because the groups are in the northern part of the country, far away from the unrest that has enveloped factories in industrial zones there, he said.

“We hope the incident will have very minor impact,” Yeh said in a press briefing.

The Tourism Bureau is working with partners in the industry to arrange adjustments to tourists' travel plans based on information from the Foreign Ministry, Yeh said.

The press conference came one day after Taiwan issued a yellow travel alert for Ho Chi Minh City and an orange alert for two provinces near the country's largest city.

The Foreign Ministry issued the orange alert for Binh Duong and Dong Nai provinces, the center of the riots, and urged citizens to take precautions and avoid unnecessary travel to the region.

Under the four color travel alert system, red is the highest alert level, followed by orange, yellow, and grey.

According to the bureau, 854 Taiwanese travelers are currently in northern Vietnam in 37 different tour groups.

A total of 2,259 Taiwanese tourists in 96 groups are expected to visit Vietnam by the end of May, the bureau said, adding that 188 in eight groups have cancelled their trips set for that time.

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