Taipei, April 7 (CNA) More companies around the world have been choosing Taiwan as a destination for their employees on incentive tours, based on the popularity of Taiwanese films and the country's lantern festival, the Tourism Bureau said Saturday.
In the first quarter of this year, 69 tourist groups comprising of 9,000 employees from international firms traveled to Taiwan, which represented an annual increase of 26.36 percent, according to the bureau.
Of that number, 36 groups were from Japan and South Korea, 16 were from Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia, and 12 were from the Philippines, Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries, the bureau said.
A sharp increase in the number of tours from Japan was due in part to Taiwan's generous donations to that country in the wake of a devastating earthquake and tsunamis in March last year, the bureau said.
The Japanese employees came from companies such as Honda Motor Co.,Ltd. and Coca-Cola Company in Senda, an area that was devastated by the disaster, as well as from the Tokyo newspaper The Yomiuri Shimbun, the bureau said.
Taiwan's soft power has also benefitted the tourism industry, the bureau said, adding that the popularity of Taiwanese movies such as "You Are the Apple of My Eye" and the annual lantern festivals might have contributed to the increasing travel interest in Taiwan.
China, which is currently in talks with Taiwan on the expansion of the incentive travel program, sent only five groups on incentive tours during the first quarter, the bureau said.
However, there were fewer bank holidays in the first quarter and more arrivals can be expected soon, the bureau added.
For example, Lee Kum Kee Group based in Hong Kong will send 2,677 outstanding workers on a six-day incentive tour of Taiwan, starting Sunday, the bureau said.
(By Chen Shun-hsieh and Maia Huang)