Government loosens visa rules for ASEAN states

Taiwan on Wednesday announced a series of changes and plans to simplify visa applications for visitors from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), aiming to boost the number of travelers from the area by at least 20 percent this year.

By Sept. 1, travelers from Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar will have been given visa privileges that others from their fellow ASEAN member states — Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Thailand — as well as India now enjoy, the Taiwan government said.

Taiwan is working to reduce the visa obstacles for all 10 ASEAN member states, strengthening its relationships with these countries in line with the government’s “New Southward Policy,” said Hsieh Wei-chun, director general of the Tourism Bureau.

Taiwan is looking to extend the visa-free privilege — currently given to travelers from Singapore and Malaysia — to more ASEAN countries, Hsieh said.

Apart from the visa application changes, Taiwan will step up its promotional campaigns to attract more visitors from ASEAN and India.

According to government estimates, the number of ASEAN travelers will increase at least 20 percent this year compared to the total of 1.42 million from the area in 2015. ASEAN tourists are expected to bring revenues of more than NT$13 billion for Taiwan this year.

Hsieh said Taiwan is keen to attract tourists from ASEAN and India, both of which show strong economic growth and increases in the numbers of tourists traveling abroad.

To promote Taiwan, the government has been arranging for foreign TV programs to film in Taiwan, said Hsieh, adding that a Bollywood production is currently doing a location shooting in Taiwan.

This week, Taiwan will hold promotional events in Bangkok and Chiang Mai, Thailand, Hsieh revealed.

Hsieh dismissed speculation that the visa privileges for ASEAN were meant to make up for losses in revenue from the diminished number of tourists from China.

He said Taiwan has been keen to attract tourists from ASEAN and that the new government is simply expending efforts toward this aim.

The number of tourists coming to Taiwan reached more than 10 million in 2015, but this year’s focus is on creating more value rather than expanding that number, Hsieh said.

According to statistics from the Tourism Bureau, international travelers (excluding those from China) totaled 3.73 million from January to April 2016, rising 12.42 compared to the same period of a year ago. Meanwhile, the number of mainland China tourists rose 10.61 percent to reach 1.51 million.

Source: China Post