Thai visitors up nearly 60 percent last year: Foreign Ministry

Taipei--The number of Thai nationals who visited Taiwan in 2016 grew by nearly 60 percent from the previous year to 195,640, thanks in part to a visa waiver program for Thai visitors launched in August 2016, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Tuesday.

The visa-free treatment for Thailand was an early initiative of the government's "new southbound policy" -- aimed at strengthening ties with Southeast Asian and South Asian countries -- and Thais have responded in numbers to the program, the ministry said.

Winston Chen (???), director-general of the ministry's Department of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, said the program has accelerated growth in the number of Thai tourists vacationing in Taiwan.

The visa-free program took effect on August 1, and in the last four months of the year, Thai visitor arrivals rose 85.2 percent year-on-year to 89,823 after rising about 40 percent in the first eight months of the year, according to Tourism Bureau figures.

For all of 2016, Thai visitor arrivals were up 57.3 percent, the figures showed.

Growth in overall visitor numbers from Southeast Asia also gained steam in the final four months to reach 1.65 million in 2016, up 16 percent from the previous year.

The Tourism Bureau hopes for 30 percent growth in visitors from the region in 2017.

Kathy Yuan (???), a senior executive officer in the bureau's International Affairs Division, said the bureau has various measures planned to boost visitors from Southeast Asia.

One of them is to simplify the visa application process for citizens of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members not already included in Taiwan's visa-waiver programs -- including the Philippines, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.

Taiwan, meanwhile, will also continue to negotiate with Thailand to offer Taiwanese reciprocal visa-free treatment, which is not available at the moment, the Foreign Ministry's Chen said.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel