Taiwan to promote cruise tours: transportation minister

Taipei--Taiwan will promote cruise tours in the new year, with the aim of attracting 1 million people to visit Taiwan on cruise ships, Transportation Minister Ho Chen Tan (???) said Thursday.

Ho Chen noted that 750,000 people aboard more than 500 cruise ships visited Taiwan last year, and said the goal for this year is to receive 1 million passengers aboard 600 cruise ships.

The minister made the remarks after reporting on the strategy for developing Taiwan as a cruise tour destination at a Cabinet meeting on the first day of work after Chinese New Year holiday.

He noted that Taiwan has the potential to develop cruise tours in Asia, particularly because it is located at the junction of Northeast Asia and Southeast Asia. It also has Keelung Harbor in northern Taiwan and Kaohsiung Harbor in southern Taiwan.

He said that Northeast Asia is a mature cruise tour market, and that Taiwan could learn from its experience and tap the Southeast Asia market, with Kaohsiung developing routes to Manila, Hong Kong and Vinh Ha Long in Vietnam.

In addition to attracting the 1 million cruise ship passengers this year, he said Taiwan will develop outlying island cruise tours after the Jinlongtou (???) port in outlying Penghu signs an agreement with a cruise company.

This means that Taiwan will welcome a third international cruise company after Star Cruises (????) and Princess Cruises (????).

Another goal will be to make Keelung and Kaohsiung harbors the home ports of cruise companies, so that cruise ship industry can increase its foothold in Taiwan and provide job opportunities.

Ho Chen said that to realize these goals, it will also capitalize on the "fly cruise" program -- referring to passengers who arrive in Taiwan by air, take cruise ships to a third destination and return and leave Taiwan again by air.

He noted that Kaohsiung is one of the few cities that has both its harbor and airport connected to the MRT system, which he said makes it suitable for developing the "fly cruise" program.

He also said that starting Jan. 1, Taiwan has eased visa rules for Hong Kong and Macau residents, offering two visas for each resident from the two places. They can come to Taiwan by air, travel aboard a cruise ship to other destinations, and return to Taiwan before leaving by air.

He forecast that crusie ship visitors from Hong Kong and Macau will increase rapidly this year, and said a similar approach will be applied to visitors from mainland China.

He added that Taiwan hopes to discuss the matter with Beijing soon.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel