Taipei, Sept. 6 (CNA) Taiwan's tourism sector on Thursday welcomed the government's decision to allow visa-free entry for Russian visitors, saying it will help expand the horizons of the local industry.
"We believe that the measure will attract a larger number of Russian tourists to Taiwan," said a Tourism Bureau official who asked not to be named.
The official said Russians make 30 million trips overseas per year but only a few to the Far East.
With the visa-free measure, more Russian tourists would visit Taiwan, the official said, adding that the sub-tropical weather and beaches will be among the major attractions for Russian visitors.
About 10,000 Russian nationals visit Taiwan each year, 30 percent of whom are businesspeople, the official said.
"It's a small number but we will step up our promotion, focusing on Taiwan's popular scenic spots such as the North Coast, Hualien and Taitung counties in eastern Taiwan, and Kenting National Park in the south."
The comments came after the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) announced earlier in the day that Russian nationals will be given visa-free entry for visits of up to 14 days in Taiwan, with immediate effect through July 31, 2019, on a trial basis as part of the government's efforts to build closer links with other countries.
Russian citizens who hold a passport that is valid for at least six months, present a confirmed return plane or boat ticket, and have no criminal record are now entitled to apply to enter Taiwan visa-free, MOFA said.
In the wake of the announcement, Grand Hotel in Taipei also issued a statement welcoming the decision.
"We're ready to welcome more visitors from Russia and hope they will have a good time and enjoy Taiwan's warm sunshine, beautiful beaches and fine food," the hotel said.
At the invitation of Grand Hotel, four groups of Russian tourism operators are scheduled to visit Taiwan in late September to check out tourist spots, after which the first tour group from Russia is expected to arrive, according to the hotel.
Former Grand Hotel Chairman Chang Hsueh-shun (???), who now heads the Taipei 101 management company, said the visa-exemption privilege is a bonus and will boost Taiwan's tourism.
"Taiwan will be a new option for Russians planning to travel overseas," Chang said.
In 2017, visitor arrivals from Russia totaled 9,226, with most of them being businesspeople, according to Tourism Bureau statistics.
The figure was low compared with 574,000 Russian arrivals in Vietnam, 1.34 million in Thailand and 500,000 in Hong Kong, Chang noted, adding that Russia is a market worth exploring by Taiwan's tourism operators.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel