October was a busy month for the Bangkok Convention Center at CentralWorld as the venue played host to the Incentive Travel & Conventions, Meetings Asia event for 2014. Hotelintel.co was in attendance, and one of the highlights in our opinion was Taiwan.
Taiwan might not be the first Asian destination that springs to mind but a snappy presentation from delegation leader Thomas Tsou quickly revealed the country’s potential to offer both a great visitor experience and attractive investment opportunities.
Thanks to attractions like the Taipei 101 – once the world’s tallest building – and stunning natural wonders such as Taroko National Park, Mastercard International has placed Taipei 15th in its latest prestigious Global Destination Index, while Taiwan itself was named one of Lonely Planet’s top ten “must travel countries” for 2014. The country also scores highly for convenience as it boasts an outstanding public transport network, with a new high speed rail link slashing travel times between the main centers of Taipei and Kaohsiung to around an hour and a half. Visitors can also feel secure in the knowledge that Taiwan is ranked second overall in Asia for personal safety, just behind Japan.
However, where Taiwan really impresses is in its government’s determination to put initiatives in place to draw both visitors and investors into its hotel and tourism sectors. According to Jeremy Liang, a Government Deputy Representative, 60% of Taiwan’s GDP is generated by the service sector, and one currently booming field is that of hospitality. Universities and dedicated vocational colleges are running fully subscribed hospitality courses while many young Taiwanese are travelling to Switzerland to learn the finer points of the industry. Both the luxury and budget ends of the market are expanding and the country certainly needs every one of its 20,000 available rooms – because some of the government’s incentive deals are too good to miss.
The Taiwan Tourism Bureau is subsidizing advertising and air charters and is actively offering grants for educational school tours and company incentive tours. Meanwhile, the Bureau of Foreign Trade is pulling out all the stops to provide sponsorship along with administrative and financial support for international meetings and exhibitions, and they can even smooth the visa process so choosing Taiwan couldn’t be more straightforward. Local government is also playing a part, with Taipei’s city government offering free admission to major attractions and their counterparts in Kaohsiung promising large subsidies to support international events.
These initiatives have already done a great deal to put Taiwan on the map for MICE. Visitor arrivals have more than doubled over the past five years; fewer than 4 million arrivals were recorded in 2008, yet the 8 million barrier was broken by 2013. Of particular interest are the details hidden within those arrivals numbers, which reveal that mainland China provides almost 3 million visitors, with Japan coming in second at half that figure. The quota for individual Chinese tourists was lifted recently to 4,000 per day and the policy of only allowing visitors from certain source cities in mainland China also looks set to be expanded in the current climate of greater cross-Strait political stability.
Jeremy Liang was quick to stress that investors in Taiwan are not just gaining access to a small island in the South China Sea; mainland China may well be the ultimate prize as business relationships between the two countries gain strength. Unlike a number of other countries in the region, Taiwan permits foreign ownership of land, and has even set up a conceptual Free Economic Zone which offers certain privileges to companies wishing to do business. All in all, Taiwan offers a bright future, whether you’re planning a short visit or a long term investment.