Taiwan flashes the cash to cruise companies

The number of international tourists traveling to Taiwan on cruise liners is estimated to grow by at least 50% in 2014, the Taiwan Tourism Bureau said yesterday.

“We would like to target the increasing number of tourists from Asian countries, particularly those of Chinese descent,” Tourism Bureau Deputy Director-General Wayne Liu said.

“We would also like to draw more high-end tourists from Europe and North America,” he added.

Liu said that the bureau considers it an advantage that Star Cruises, the world’s third-largest cruise line, has decided to shift its focus to Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Not only would the company’s strategic move increase the number of international visitors to Taiwan, it would also help provide more job opportunities for the nation’s tour guides, Liu said.

Liu made the comments after he signed a Taiwan-Hong Kong Asia Cruise Fund agreement with Hong Kong Tourism Board Chairman Peter Lam yesterday morning.

The fund states that both sides would jointly assist international cruise liners in promoting cruises ship tours between Taiwan and Hong Kong.

The two parties also agreed to jointly promote Taiwan-Hong Kong cruise tours next month at an international exhibition in the US, “Cruise Shipping Miami.”

Lam said that the fund would be in effect for three years, with the first phase of operation scheduled to begin in April.

“We believe that the fund will motivate cruise liners to develop more cruise shipping tours in Asia,” Lam said.

Meanwhile, the bureau is set to amend the rules governing the appropriation of subsidies for cruise liners, Liu said.

“We have in the past subsidized international cruise liners to make stops at seaports in Taiwan,” Liu said. “However, trends have changed and we would rather subsidize cruise liners for helping to promote cruise tour products instead.”

Liu also urged the nation’s seaport authorities to quickly improve their infrastructure to meet the challenges brought by an increase in visitors arriving on cruise liners.

“We have already been informed that Star Cruises is planning to dispatch a 150,000-tonne cruise ship on cruises to Taiwan. Such a large ship can accommodate 4,000 to 5,000 passengers at a time. Seaport authorities should seriously consider if their faculties can meet the needs of so many passengers,” he said.

In addition, the bureau is negotiating with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs over allowing tourists arriving on cruise ships to apply for multiple-entry landing visas, Liu said, adding that the ministry is working on how it would enforce the relevant regulations.

Taiwan and Hong Kong last year succeeded in bringing the Mariner of the Sea, a cruise ship carrying more than 6,000 tourists, to Taiwan.

Statistics from the Cruise Lines International Association show that the number of cruise ship tourists is estimated to top 30 million by 2020.

In this respect, Asia has an average annual growth rate of 9% – much higher than the global average.

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