Country may not break 2015 foreign arrival record: official

Taiwan will have a hard time breaking the record for visits to the country by foreign nationals set in 2015 because of a decline in Chinese tourist arrivals, the deputy chief of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) said Wednesday.

Vice Transportation Minister Wu Men-feng said at a hearing of the Legislature's Finance Committee that Chinese visitor numbers to Taiwan could fall by 30 percent from last year, making any shot at breaking last year's record highly unlikely.

The forecast of a 30 percent decline was first made by Transportation Minister Chen Jian-yu at the Legislature earlier this year when he was pressed by lawmakers to give an estimate amid fears that China would cut visitor numbers as the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) prepared to take power on May 20.

The DPP is considered less friendly to China than the Kuomintang administration that has governed Taiwan for the past eight years.

On Wednesday, when Wu was asked by lawmakers to elaborate on the impact of fewer Chinese visitors on Taiwan's tourism sector, he said it meant that Taiwan was unlikely to see foreign arrivals top the 10.44 million record set last year.

Tsai Ming-ling, chief secretary of the Tourism Bureau under the MOTC, told lawmakers that based on the 30 percent ratio, 1.2 million fewer Chinese will visit Taiwan this year than last, leaving visitor arrivals at around the 10-million mark.

To make up for the shortfall in Chinese visitors, Tsai said the MOTC is working to attract tourists from Japan, South Korea, and Southeast Asian countries, Tsai told lawmakers at the hearing.

DPP lawmaker Wu Ping-jui urged the government to give visa-free status to visitors from Southeast Asian countries as it already does for visitors from Japan to become more competitive in the regional tourism market.

Tsai replied that such a policy would be up to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs rather than the MOTC, but she said the MOTC has taken other measures to woo visitors from Southeast Asian countries and even India, Tsai said.

Starting last November, for example, Taiwan streamlined the visitor application process for citizens of Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines and India.

According to data compiled by the MOTC, visitor numbers from the five countries grew between 11 percent and 54 percent year-on-year in the first two months of 2016.

Source: China Post

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