TAIPEI – Taiwan registered a record tourist footfall of 11.1 million in 2018, a 3.1 percent jump compared to a year earlier but the number of Chinese visitors has dropped by 1.4 percent year on year, according to the island’s tourism data.
The sharp decline in the influx of Chinese tourists since 2016 – when the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party led by President Tsai Ing-wen came to power – has been compensated by a rise in the number of tourists arriving from Southeast Asian countries.
According to the data released late Thursday by Taiwan’s Tourism Bureau, the number of Chinese tourists arriving in the island dropped from 4.18 million in 2015 to 2.73 million in 2017. In 2018, the number of Chinese visiting Taiwan was 2.7 million.
The island’s “look south” policy, which facilitated the entry of tourists from Southeast and South Asia with visa exemptions, has produced results.
The number of Philippine tourists has increased by 44.1 percent and Indonesian visitors by 11.3 percent.
However, the policy has also resulted in a few incidents of misuse of the liberalization of visa rules, such as the case of 152 Vietnamese tourists who tried to stay back in Taiwan illegally after arriving there.
The tourism industry of Taiwan accounted for 4.45 percent of the island’s economy in 2017, according to the Taiwan Institute of Economic Research.
The number of Taiwanese tourists going overseas stood at 16.6 millions in 2018 – a growth of 6.3 percent compared to the year before.
Despite the drop in tourist arrivals from China, the country continues to be the top source of tourists amid soaring cross-strait ties.
Since China considers Taiwan a breakaway territory, Beijing has been insisting the government-led by Tsai acknowledge the one-China principle.
As she refused to do so, Beijing suspended official communication with Taiwan and intensified its diplomatic siege and military intimidation of Taiwan after May 2016, when Tsai became the president.
In 2018, Chinese pressure on Taiwan increased further as the latter attempted to participate in international organizations.
Taiwan lost three diplomatic allies in 2018, including the Dominican Republic and El Salvador, after they established ties with Beijing and the number of Taipei’s allies was reduced to just 17.
Earlier this month, Tsai said Taiwan cannot accept Chinese premises of “one China” and “one country, two systems,” after Chinese President Xi Jinping called for the reunification of Taiwan with China and did not rule out using force.