Influx Of Mainland Chinese Boosting The Island’s Tourism Figures, Benefitted By Relaxed Travel Rules
The global tourism industry has been hit hard by the global economic crisis, as formerly profligate travelers from Europe, Japan, and North America scale back their vacation plans this summer, and the tourism industries in the periphery of Greater China — Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan — have been no exception. Macau has responded to this drop in wider demand by reaching out more aggressively to Mainland tourists, who find traveling to China’s special administrative regions far easier than applying for foreign visas. We’ve written on Macau’s outreach strategies, but Taiwan is another market altogether. With the election of Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou last year, and ties between Taiwan and the Mainland gradually warming, China issued new travel rules that made the process far easier, and soon after began direct flights to Taiwan for the first time in nearly 60 years.
Since then, Taiwan’s travel industry has benefitted from the influx of visitors. According to this press release, the number of overseas visitors jumped 13.8 per cent in the first five months this year to 1.79 million, most of them being tourists. However, the real meat of the release is that the number of Mainland Chinese visitors has surged even as tourists from other major Taiwan tourism markets have plummeted:
Although the number of tourists from most countries fell, including a 50 per cent drop of South Korean tourists, the number of Chinese tourists continued to surge thanks to fast-improving cross- strait ties. In the January-May period, Taiwan received 225,138 Chinese tourists, up 775 per cent from the same 2008 period. Taiwan opened its door to Chinese tourists on July 4, 2008 when it launched weekend charter flights with China, ending six decades of ban on Taiwan-China air links. The weekend charter flights were expanded to daily charter flights in December last year and will become regular flights in August.
Ultimately, it seems clear that Taiwan’s tourism industry will continue to depend heavily on Mainland visitors, who generally come in tour groups and spend freely (though not as much as other major tourist groups, but that is changing). With direct flights increasing in number and the group tour process becoming more simplified, we can expect to see these tourists propping up the Taiwan tourism industry in the years ahead — definitely a tourist segment to keep an eye on.