Taiwan will kick off a one-year trial program on August 1 to grant visa-exempt privileges to Thai and Brunei nationals for stays up to 30 days, Executive Yuan Spokesperson Tung Chen-yuan said today. Tourists from other Southeast Asian countries will also be able to visit Taiwan visa-free provided they meet certain conditions.
The measure, part of the administration’s “New Southbound Policy,” was approved at a meeting chaired by Premier Lin Chuan to discuss ways of increasing tourists from Southeast Asia. It is expected to increase the number of tourists from Southeast Asia by 280,000, or 20 percent, from the previous year, generating NT$13 billion (US$401.2 million) for Taiwan’s tourism industry, according to the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC).
Taiwan in particular aims to attract tourists from Thailand, which has a population of 67 million. In the first five months of this year, the number of tourists from Thailand jumped 87.55 percent from the same period last year, the MOTC said. Japan has also benefited greatly since it implemented visa-free measures for visitors from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 2015, attracting a whopping 205.7 percent more Thai tourists than the year before.
Starting September 1 this year, citizens of Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, the Philippines and Vietnam who have obtained visas to Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, the Schengen Area, South Korea, the United States or the United Kingdom over the past 10 years will also be allowed to enter Taiwan visa-free after registering on the Internet, Tung said.
In addition to visa measures, the government plans to boost tourism by increasing the number of tour guides in Taiwan, creating a more Muslim-friendly environment, and raising the tourism marketing budget from NT$80 million (US$2.5 million) in 2015 to NT$200 million (US$6.2 million).
To support these policies, the MOTC will work with authorities governing scenic areas to review and improve English-language signs; the Ministry of Economic Affairs is encouraging ASEAN business travelers to also see the sights while on business here; and the Ministry of Finance is increasing the number of locations providing tax refunds and foreign currency exchanges.