Taiwan will offer 500,000 tourists a cash or discount incentive this year as it tries to shore up its post-pandemic travel industry and boost spending.
The incentives, worth NT$5,000 ($165) each, were announced Thursday as part of a NT$5.3 billion package to attract international tourists.
While some details were not yet available, including whether there were any eligibility requirements or how people would be chosen, officials said in a statement that the money may be handed out electronically or as discounts for accommodation.
“We hope to accelerate and expand efforts for international tourists to come to Taiwan,” Lin Fu-shan, department director of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, said at a press briefing.
The spending plan also included a proposal to offer travel agencies NT$10,000 each for groups of at least eight tourists, and NT$20,000 each for groups of at least 15 tourists.
Taiwan is looking for ways to boost its economy after removing COVID curbs last year. Growth is expected to slow in 2023 as the trade-dependent island struggles with a dropoff in exports, making it more important to spur activity through domestic demand and tourism.
Before the pandemic, tourism accounted for about 4 per cent of Taiwan’s gross domestic product, according to Taiwan’s Tourism Bureau.
However, visits came to a near-standstill as Taiwan closed its borders and implemented quarantine rules to contain the virus. Geopolitical tensions have also chilled the industry, as China banned individual tourists traveling to Taiwan in 2019, and last month left it off a list of 20 permitted destinations for Chinese tour groups.
Taiwan has taken some steps to welcome visitors, including reopening its borders to individual travellers from Hong Kong and Macau this month. The government wants to attract six million tourists this year, Transportation Minister Wang Kwo-tsai said earlier.
After reopening last October, Taiwan attracted nearly 900,000 tourists in 2022, according to a statement from Taiwan’s Transportation Ministry.
The tourism announcement was part of a larger, NT$380 billion stimulus package that was approved via a special act by lawmakers this week. Lawmakers still need to sign off on where all of the funds are used specifically. Other parts of that plan — paid for using surplus tax revenue — include allocating funds for use by the state-owned Taiwan Power Company and health insurance system.
That broader package has been in the works for a while, but Thursday was the first time officials detailed several of the specifics, including the plan for tourists. Officials are expected to release more details in the afternoon.
Taiwan’s campaign comes as others in the region also roll out initiatives to attract tourists. The “Hello Hong Kong” campaign, for example, involves giving out 500,000 air tickets among other perks.