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Taiwan gov't expects inbound travel rebound, but challenges remain

11/03/2023 08:56 PM
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Visitors attend the Taipei International Travel Fair on Friday. CNA photo Nov. 3, 2023
Visitors attend the Taipei International Travel Fair on Friday. CNA photo Nov. 3, 2023

Taipei, Nov. 3 (CNA) Taiwan is set to meet its target of receiving 6 million overseas arrivals this year by mid-December, half that of pre-COVID-19 levels, but challenges remain on the supply end, tourism operators said at the Taipei International Travel Fair (ITF) Friday.

"The travel market is capped as many airports and recreational facilities -- especially those in Japan -- have been scrambling to handle the influx of tourists streaming across reopened borders," said Lisa Huang (黃莉雯), marketing manager at Colatour Travel Service Co.

Due to staff departures and a hiring freeze during the pandemic, the current tourism workforce level of the Northeast Asian country -- traditionally the most popular destination for Taiwanese tourists -- has not rebounded to match the rise in customers, Huang said.

"Time for Taiwan" tourism promotional short video

Another major constraint on the supply side was a halt on Taiwan-China group travel, which has been in place since 2020, she said.

It was a pity that political issues across the Taiwan Strait have curbed tourism exchanges, said Huang, whose company has seen overall demand bounce back to 60 percent of pre-COVID levels.

Sharing Huang's frustration was Benjamin Pien (卞傑民), general manager of Phoenix Tours Int'l, Inc.

"We are stuck at the travel ban because even if there are willing travelers, we cannot proceed with the tours," Pien said, adding that it would be very helpful now that the government has decided to lift the restriction after the Lunar New Year next year.

Visitors attend the Taipei International Travel Fair on Friday. CNA photo Nov. 3, 2023
Visitors attend the Taipei International Travel Fair on Friday. CNA photo Nov. 3, 2023

At the opening of the ITF, which takes place at Nangang Exhibition Center from Nov. 3-6, Vice Premier Cheng Wen-tsan (鄭文燦) said Taiwan is on course to welcome its 6 millionth foreign national arrival this year around mid-December.

According to Cheng, this was in line with a forecast from Transportation Minister Wang Kwo-tsai (王國材) last month that foreign visitors will reach 12 million in 2024, on par with pre-pandemic levels.

Taiwan had 11,864,105 overseas arrivals in 2019, including 7,996,961 in the first eight months of the year -- the latter being two times that between January and August 2023 -- according to Tourism Administration statistics.

Of the nearly 12 million visitors in 2019, about 23 percent were from China, but that percentage has fallen to about 3 percent so far in 2023, largely because of an ongoing suspension of travel ties between Taiwan and China.

(By Lee Hsin-Yin)

Enditem/ASG

President Tsai Ing-wen (in gray jacket) attends the opening of the travel fair in Taipei Friday. CNA photo Nov. 3, 2023
President Tsai Ing-wen (in gray jacket) attends the opening of the travel fair in Taipei Friday. CNA photo Nov. 3, 2023
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