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Integration of tourism and trade fairs encouraged

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Premier Sean Chen said in a symposium on August 28 that the tourism and MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferencing, Exhibition) industries should integrate festivals, conventions and large-scale events into attractive packages and build both the quantity and the quality of their services. He also emphasized that if Taiwan made the most of cross-strait factors, "business opportunities would be unlimited."

"Tourism is an important exportable service industry. It doesn't need to go overseas to do business because its customers come into the country themselves," said the premier.

"Tourism and the event industry should not be treated as two different things, and big events acquire new value if one looks at their production as a business," he added.

The premier stressed that the MICE industry can serve as an important engine of growth for tourism as well as Taiwan's international trade. "Participants in exhibitions are generally big spenders. If various industries, traditional festivals and trade fairs are linked, both tourism and Taiwan's economy will benefit," Chen said.

The Executive Yuan said it hopes to improve both the quality and quantity of Taiwan's tourism industry through the Tourism Development and Promotion Committee's MICE Subcommittee.

Statistics show that since 2009, the number of tourists to Taiwan has grown at a rate of over 1 million per year. The 6 million mark was broken in 2011, and the visitor count is expected to surpass 7 million this year. The Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) estimates that foreign visitor arrivals will reach 10 million by 2016.

Representatives at today's forum suggested that the government further develop major attractions. Examples included creating a Taiwanese Akihabara, constructing more sites for large-scale cultural performances and expanding the National Palace Museum's capacity to host exhibits.

Though over 10 million foreign visitors are expected in 2016, Taiwan's hotels currently have only about 140,000 rooms. In response to the tourist sector's inquiries, Premier Chen instructed the Ministry of Finance's National Property Administration to set up a land acquisition information platform for investors interested in building hotels and told the Financial Supervisory Commission to help hotel investors get information about financing.

In addition to thanking industry representatives for their suggestions, the premier made the following conclusions:

1. The promotion of tourism should take both quality and quantity into consideration. In addition to attracting big spenders such as business travelers and individual tourists, the industry should improve quality of service by upgrading its business operations and training more talent.

2. With regard to enhancing the quality of tourism, attention should be paid to every aspect of the tourist experience. Building large parking lots and public toilets near tourist attractions would be an effective supporting measure, for example.

3. Minister Without Portfolio Yang Chiu-hsing presides over the Tourism Development and Promotion Committee, which manages inter-agency and local-central government coordination on issues like the establishment of a cross-strait tourist group fee guarantee mechanism, the handling of accidents, acquisition of land for hotels and the development of recreation areas. Ministries and commissions also enlist help from the MICE subcommittee to integrate local resources to develop the event industry.

4. The MOTC proposed the establishment of a Taiwan tourism calendar, a marketing tool that would feature information on festivals, exhibitions and major events as well as relevant maps.

5. The MOTC should establish a one-stop service to streamline domestic industries' investment in tourism.

6. To eliminate obstacles to tourism and increase industry competitiveness, the MOTC has stepped up training of Taiwan tourism talent, echoing a recommendation by the American Chamber of Commerce. The MOTC is subsidizing Korean-language tour guide examination takers and will work with the Ministry of Examination to cultivate tourism professionals speaking other languages.

7. The MICE industry can boost economic development and exports, and business travelers visiting these events spur peripheral industries like tourism. In light of this, the government will continue to invest in large exhibition centers and conference buildings.

Today's meeting on the tourism and exhibition industries was the fourth in a series of Executive Yuan symposiums on Taiwan's major financial and economic issues, during which the premier and agency leaders solicited recommendations from industry representatives.

The 26 guests at this symposium represented seven large industrial and commercial organizations, 15 major tourism industry associations and eight big MICE industry associations. These groups included the Taiwan Visitors Association, the Travel Quality Assurance Association, R.O.C., the Travel Agent Association of R.O.C., Taiwan and the Taiwan Exhibition & Convention Association.

The major topics of discussion were "New Thinking on Cohesive Tourism Development", "Setting up a New Tourism Marketing Platform" and "Strengthening the Competitiveness of the Tourism and Exhibition Industries".

The last of the five symposiums, on labor relations and human resources, will convene at 9 a.m. this Saturday, September 1 at the Executive Yuan.

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