Wednesday, 1 February 2017

TAIWAN: Taiwan Tourism Declining

The number of tourists visiting Taiwan from China’s mainland has fallen 36.2 percent in the seven months since Tsai Ing-wen became the island’s leader in May, the government said yesterday.

The fall, which is compared to the same period in the previous year, was steeper than the 18.5 percent decline measured for most of 2016, the island’s Mainland Affairs Council said.

Data on tourists from the mainland going to Taiwan has been closely watched since Tsai took office on May 20.

Tsai and her ruling Democratic Progressive Party, which advocates “independence” for Taiwan, have said they want to maintain peace with the mainland but have never conceded to the “One China” principle.

“Taiwan will maintain its policy of welcoming mainland tourists,” Chiu Chui-cheng, the council’s deputy chief, said at a regular news briefing. “But due to political factors that impact mainland tourists coming to Taiwan, our government will plan for the worst and prepare for the best.”

Citing immigration figures from May 20 to December 27, he said the number of mainland tourists arriving on group tours had dropped 51.2 percent from the same period a year earlier, a greater drop than the total number of tourists for the same period.

For the full year to Tuesday this week, the number of mainland tourists arriving on group tours fell 29.9 percent.

The number of mainland residents arriving as individual tourists, a figure that is not as easy to calculate, fell at a slower pace, but still reflected double-digit drop during Tsai’s rule, the data showed.

The decline in tourist numbers from mainland has been keenly felt by the island’s tourism industry whose members staged a large protest earlier this year, prompting the government to issue preferential loans to help struggling businesses dependent on tourism.

Also yesterday, authorities in the island said Tsai will pass through the United States when she visits Latin America next month, angering China which urged the US to block any stopovers.

Details of stopovers will be disclosed before the end of this week, the island said.

China urged the US not to let her in.

“We hope the US can abide by the ‘One China’ policy … and not let her pass through their border, not give any false signals to Taiwan independence forces, and through concrete actions safeguard overall China-US relations and peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a news briefing in Beijing.

The transit details are being closely watched as Taiwan media has speculated that Tsai will seek to meet US President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team ahead of his January 20 inauguration.

Trump angered China when he spoke to Tsai earlier this month in a break with decades of precedent, a move that cast doubt on his incoming administration’s commitment to the “One China” policy.

The US has acknowledged that there is only One China and that Taiwan is part of it.

Tsai’s office earlier this month said she would visit Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador in that order. She will leave Taiwan on January 7 and return on January 15.