|Taiwan will continue to invest in bike-friendly trails for more adventurous travelers.|
Nearly a year ago, in February 2011, the Taiwan Tourism Bureau unveiled its new brand slogan, “Taiwan—The Heart of Asia,” and set itself some rather ambitious goals: to welcome six million tourists by the end of 2011, and to receive 10 million annual tourists by 2015. Ten months later, the tourism board appears to be well on track to achieve its goals, according to Taiwan Tourism Bureau Director-General Janice Lai.
“Our international visitors have increased significantly since 2010, and we are ready to welcome more to Taiwan in the coming year,” Lai said. In November 2011 alone, Taiwan welcomed 619,343 tourists. From January to November 2011, Taiwan saw a total of 5,438,890 international visitors, keeping the country on track to tally six million tourists in 2011. The growth rate of visitors from the U.S. from 2010 to 2011 was 9.8 percent as of November 2011.
“It’s clear that we have the ambition to become a tourism leader,” Lai told Travel Agent during a rare appearance in Los Angeles on December 20. Lai, who has served as the tourism bureau’s top executive since 2006, traveled from Taiwan to Los Angeles to meet directly with more than 80 Los Angeles-based travel partners, travel agents and journalists, and to detail her bureau’s new “flexible strategy” for growing the island nation’s tourism industry at a celebratory holiday banquet event at the Hilton Universal City.
The tourism bureau’s new strategy includes a new slogan for 2012—“Time for Taiwan”—as well as an increased focus on developing and nurturing the bureau’s relationships with travel agent partners, tour operators and media, Lai said.
“In the past, the awareness of Taiwan as a tourism destination was not enough but, especially in the past three years, our government has begun to pay more and more attention to tourism and it has become a major emerging industry for our country,” Lai said. “Because of this, our tourism infrastructure has improved greatly, especially for travelers and for our travel agent partners.”
|Chiang Kai-shek Memorial in Taipei, Taiwan.|
Lai said that the bureau’s Los Angeles office, along with its other offices in New York and San Francisco, has created a professional program for travel agents to become specialists in selling travel to Taiwan and will also provide more incentives for tour operators. She noted that the bureau is also committed to working with tour operator partners and organizations—including the United States Tour Operators Association, Aberdeen Tours, SITA World Tours and American Express—to bring more travelers to Taiwan. More familiarization trips for agents, she said, are also in the works. Lai noted that recent travel agent fam trip participants remarked that their experiences of Taiwan were “beyond their expectations,” and that the country’s culture, scenery, food and people left an indelible impression on them.
Focusing on Target Markets
Going into 2012, Lai and her team will also focus on attracting more senior travelers, cruisers and backpackers, as well as targeting both stopover and MICE markets. “For all travelers,” Lai stated, “the message is to emphasize that Taiwan is the heart of Asia and there is no better time to visit than now.” To attract more cruisers, Lai said that the tourism bureau is working with the government to revise its cruise subsidy laws to make it easier for cruise lines to dock in Taiwan. To attract foodies and gourmands, the bureau is also encouraging regional cities and counties to develop programs and events that put local flavors, as well as those of the island’s aboriginal cultures, on full display for visitors. And for more adventurous travelers, the country will continue to invest in its already extensive cycling infrastructure which includes bike-friendly trails, trains, ramps and buses.
|Rob Schneider and his wife, Patricia Azarcoya Arce, present Taiwan Tourism Bureau Director-General Janice Lai with a photo from their recent honeymoon in Taiwan.|
Lai was not alone in touting the uniqueness and hospitality of Taiwan. During her event in Los Angeles, she was joined by comedian and actor Rob Schneider and his wife, television producer Patricia Azarcoya Arce. Following their nuptials in April 2011, the couple enjoyed a weeklong honeymoon in Taiwan, and they made a personal appearance at the bureau’s event to show their support and share their enthusiasm for Taiwan as a travel destination.
Schneider said that he and his wife decided to honeymoon in Taiwan because of its culture and the warmth and hospitality of its locals. “The best chicken soup in my life was from Taiwan,” Schneider told the audience. “We loved the night markets and all the exotic foods that we found there, and Patricia especially loved the shopping. It’s a beautiful country, and the people were the nicest and kindest. There’s a real kindness and sweetness in the people who live there. We look forward to going back again soon.”
Schneider and his wife presented Lai with a signed photo of the couple at one of Taipei’s famous night markets, and Lai encouraged them to return to Taiwan, especially for the annual Lantern Festival, and to experience the romantic Sun Moon Lake region.
“We’ll definitely go back sometime soon,” Schneider told Lai. “That’s for certain.”