Published on : Friday, May 19, 2017
Nowhere is the tourism boom from China over the past decade more conspicuous than among neighbours of the country. Many Chinese tourists are avoiding visiting South Korea in response to its operation of an antimissile system that China considers a threat to its security. In March, Chinese tourist arrivals in South Korea were 40 per cent lower than a year earlier.
Last year, international arrivals in Taiwan reached a record high of nearly 10.7 million, up from 10.4 million in 2015, according to the Tourism Bureau. That happened even as arrivals from China dropped more than 600,000, to 3.5 million, after Beijing urged tour group operators to reduce travel to Taiwan. While South-east Asian arrivals exceeded 478,000, up 36 per cent from the same period in 2016, the number of Chinese visitors continued to drop, by 42 per cent, to fewer than 660,000.
Tourism policy has made it convenient for the South-east Asians to come to Taiwan. Visa requirements have been relaxed, new air routes have been launched and announcements at some train stations are being made in Indonesian, Thai and Vietnamese. The number of South-east Asian visitors is expected to increase further this year, when Taiwan extends visa-free entry to the Philippines.
Taiwan’s tourism industry is developing at a time when a new generation of cash-rich travellers is emerging in South-east Asia. That is reason enough to track new markets, but avoiding an over dependence on China is also important. In addition to emblematic tourist destinations like Taipei 101 — one of the world’s tallest buildings — night markets and the National Palace Museum, many South-east Asian tourists are keen on experiencing the cooler climates and snow of Taiwan’s two largest mountain ranges.