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AUDIO: Taiwan Visa-Waiver Travelers Outstrip Estimates

  • Written by PNC Washington Correspondent Matt Kaye
Guam - The US decision last month to add Taiwan to the US Visa-Waiver program may be boosting tourist travel from Taiwan to the US islands and states more than first predicted.

Taiwan’s Lion Travel Service—one of Taiwan’s leading travel agencies—told the Taipei Times that the US Visa-Waiver Program has boosted its sales this month and next by two to three-times versus last year.

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An agency spokesman told the paper that the firm first estimated a 50-percent growth for November and December, when Taiwan won US visa-waiver approval.

But Now, Lion Travel Service says “demand is outstripping supply,” though other market watchers still put expected annual growth at about 30-percent.

Lion Travel says many travelers have booked tours to the US during the Chinese New Year in February, with at least twice as many Taiwanese planning to travel, compared with the year-earlier level.

US Travel Association spokeswoman, Cathy Keefe predicted last month, more Taiwanese would visit Micronesia…since US visa-waiver approval would make it even easier to visit the islands that already have their own, limited visa waiver program for Taiwan…

Keefe:  “I think you can expect Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands to benefit from this increase in travelers, because of their location…and, because of what they have to offer…and, because there already is a strong interest from Taiwan and other nations, in visiting.”

Guam through its own visa waiver program with the CNMI received more than 46-thousand Taiwanese visitors through 11-months of fiscal 2012, versus almost 41-thousand for all of FY ’11.   The NMI, lacking direct air service and dependent on Guam for Taiwanese visitors, received just 220 in 2010.

The early betting was Visa waiver inclusion for Taiwan could bring an added 55-thousand Taiwanese to the islands and states, spending an added 213-million dollars, compared with last year.

The new estimates, if correct, could add thousands more travelers and tourism jobs, boosted by millions more in revenue, further helping economic recovery in the islands and states.

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