The Ministry of Communications and Transportation (MOTC) said Friday it remained optimistic that Taiwan will attract more than 10 million overseas visitors this year despite a recent decline in visits from Chinese nationals.
The ministry did not say if it expected overseas arrival numbers this year to surpass the 10,439,785 foreign nationals who visited Taiwan last year, but it indicated that there should not be much of a fall-off.
The number of foreign visitors to Taiwan was up 7.93 percent year-on-year in the first seven months of the year, the ministry said, with the performance of some major inbound tourism markets remaining robust.
Although Chinese visitor arrivals registered only 0.41 percent growth in the January to July period, visitors from South Korea and Japan were up 29.01 percent and 17.46 percent, respectively, from the same period a year earlier, the ministry said.
The ministry acknowledged, however, that overall visitor growth has been stunted since May when Chinese arrivals started posting negative growth, including 30 percent declines from last year in group tourist numbers.
In July alone, Chinese visitor numbers were down 15.03 percent year-on-year, after falling by about 12 percent in May and June.
To date, growth in arrivals from other, mostly Asian, markets have offset the declines, with overall visitor arrivals up about 2 percent in May, June and July, but tourism officials said they were not sure if the drop in Chinese visitors could continue to be fully offset.
They said they were using a "push-pull strategy" -- "pushing" Taiwan tourism directly to potential customers and also encouraging them to actively seek out, or "pull," information on visiting Taiwan -- around the region to attract tourists.
"We are hoping to diversify the inbound market to sustain growth," said Chao Chih-min (???), section chief of the Tourism Bureau's Planning Division.
Minister without Portfolio Chang Ching-sen (???) also vowed Friday to introduce a plan to "expand the Chinese tourism market" and restore travel interest from Chinese tourists in two weeks.
For now, more frequent exchanges between cross-strait tourism authorities and industry leaders will take place, with more diverse and in-depth travel options expected to be introduced, he said.
Despite the government's upbeat take and relatively good visitor numbers from markets outside China, there remain concerns that Chinese tourist arrivals will decline at a faster clip in August and September than in the previous three months.
Applications for permits to visit Taiwan from group tourists and free independent travelers from China are down to around 3,500 and 4,000 per day, respectively, well under their daily quota of 5,000, industry insiders said.
Those numbers could slide to 2,500 and 3,000, respectively, by the end of August, which would signal a larger tumble in Chinese visitors in the coming months.
Companies involved in serving Chinese tour groups, including hotels and tour bus operators, have already complained about lower numbers and plan to hold a protest in the coming days.
Source: Focus Taiwan