The Executive Yuan's Office of Trade Negotiations said today that tourism to Taiwan from New Southbound Policy target countries was up sharply in January thanks to modified visa procedures and other initiatives, and that continued solid economic growth in Southeast Asia means Taiwan can expect to see stronger tourism numbers from these markets in the future.
In January nearly 68,000 people from the 18 New Southbound Policy countries visited Taiwan for tourism purposes, 42.8 percent higher than the figure in January 2016. This is the fastest year-on-year growth for the month of January in four years, the office said, citing statistics from the Tourism Bureau.
Among the targeted countries, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines were the top five sources for Taiwan-bound tourists. The number of Thai tourists for the month of January broke the 10,000 mark for the first time in five years, up 170 percent over January 2016. This can be attributed to a trial program that began last August granting Thai nationals visa-free entry for up to 30 days, as well as a program that simplifies visa regulations for high-end tour groups from Southeast Asia. The latter program also applies to Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, India, Myanmar and Laos, all of whom recorded growth rates of 50 percent or higher to underscore the importance of visa facilitation measures on tourism.
Between August 2016 when the New Southbound Policy was implemented and January 2017, the number of visitors from the target countries climbed 25.83 percent year-on-year, the highest growth rate over the same six-month period in the most recent five years. Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines saw the highest growth among the top five source markets, while Cambodia and Myanmar rose the fastest among the smaller markets, the office said.
Tourism operators have noticed the link between economic growth in Southeast Asia and tourist numbers, the office said. Taiwan therefore began extending visa-free privileges to more target countries based on population and economic conditions, beginning in the second half of last year with Malaysia and Singapore and then to Thailand and Brunei. Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia were also added to the simplified visa tour group program last September.
Over the next three years, Taiwan plans to extend visa-free privileges to Indonesia, India, the Philippines, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and other countries with growth potential. In January 2017 the World Bank forecast that the East Asia and Pacific economy will grow 6.1 to 6.2 percent per year over the next three years, and the South Asian economy 7.1 to 7.4 percent. As people from these countries continue to enjoy robust economic conditions and rising incomes, the New Southbound Policy will benefit Taiwan's tourism industry even more, the office said.