Despite economic slump, more Japanese tourists expected: Lai

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Despite the current global economic downturn, the number of Japanese tourist arrivals is expected to increase by 4 percent to 5 percent this year, Tourism Bureau Director General Janice Lai said Wednesday.

According to Lai, the steep appreciation of the Japanese yen has made it cheaper to travel to Taiwan on pleasure trips.

Moreover, she said, the fuel oil surcharge has fallen from a high of 20,000 yen (US$222.10) last year to the current 8,000 yen and may further drop to 3,000 yen in March.

Promoting Taiwan

All these advantages, coupled with geographic proximity and the Taiwanese people’s hospitality, will help to attract more Japanese tourists to Taiwan, Lai explained.

Japan has been Taiwan’s most important tourism source. Affected by skyrocketing fuel oil surcharges last year and a global financial tsunami, the number of Japanese tourist arrivals fell to 1.08 million in 2008, marking a 6.8 percent year-on-year decline.

Lai made the remarks after signing an agreement with Nippon Travel Agency, the fourth largest Japanese travel agency, to encourage more Japanese people to visit Taiwan in 2009.

Under the agreement, Lai said, the Japanese travel agency promises to send 40,000 holidaymakers to Taiwan this year, up 33 percent from the 30,000 figure recorded in 2008.

Lai said the Tourism Bureau plans to sign similar pacts with four other top Japanese travel agencies to organize more Japanese tour groups to Taiwan. If the Japanese signatories reach their service targets, the Tourism Bureau will offer advertising and manpower training subsidies in line with the contract terms.