Translated and compiled by Yuan-ling Liang and Bing-sheng Lee

On March 13(GMT+8), Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je stated during his visit to San Francisco that the number of Chinese tourists in Taipei has dropped 10%. He said that the city government has discussed to categorize the target tourists into three different groups to diverse the risk, including the Japanese, tourists from Southeast Asia and Muslims.

“We still call for friendly interaction between cross-strait relationships and do not expect political concerns to get in way of business developments,” says Ko.

Chien Yu-yen, director of the Department of Information and Tourism of Taipei City (TPEDOIT), states that the number of the Chinese tourists occupies 42% of Taipei’s inbound visitors. This figure was calculated from visitors to Taipei 101 for it is one of the top attractions that 90% of the Chinese tourists flock to.

Switching the target market to the Islamic World

Under the pressure of China possibly lowering its tourist quota, the Taiwanese government is now planning to expand tourism market in other countries to maintain the economic growth. The main target, currently, is the Islamic nations.

The UNWTO (World Tourism Organization) estimates that Islamic countries will be the most rapidly growing area in tourism for the next ten years. According to statistics, the number of Muslim tourists doubled in the past half year. Analysts say Malaysians account for most of the inbound tourists in Taiwan. Currently, there are 28,900 Muslims in Taipei and most of them are Indonesian. TPEDOIT also states that the number of Muslim tourists reached 180,000 people in 2014, achieving a 12.5% growth compared to 2013.

Chien stated that in recent years, the economic condition in Southeast Asia has risen; however, the number of their inbound tourists in Taipei is still “way too little.” She points out that the current threshold for Southeast Asians visiting Taiwan needs to be lowered, and that Taiwan needs to promote its reputation in the Southeast Asia countries.

The Taipei city government now hopes to work on simplifying the application process for the target tourists and they have also been enforcing the promotion of several preferential programs. These programs, targeting independent travelers, are also designed to attract Islamic tourists.

►Related News: Chinese Tourist Levels Rumored to Lower Between March to May

Building up a Muslim-friendly environment

By the end of last year, the Chinese Muslim Association has approved 31 Taiwanese restaurants with Halal certificates, representing that these places serve Islamic-friendly food. Managers of these restaurants state that they are observing a growth of Islamic customers in their restaurants. Also, GMC Travel & Tour, a Malaysian travel agency that has a signed contract with Taiwan, says that the number of people asking for Taipei tours has increased.

Additionally, since a calculation indicates that Malaysia is where most inbound visitors are from, the Tourism Bureau is improving Taiwan’s image in Malaysia, hoping to attract more than 10,000 visitors to Taipei this year. In April, it will also attend the Arabian Travel Mart to introduce Taiwan to Arabic countries.

As for Taipei’s new strategy, the TPEDOIT will hold activities for Eid al-Fitr, celebrating the holiday with Islamic tourists and dwellers from Islamic countries.

Eid al-Fitr, “breaking of the fast," is a religious holiday celebrated by Muslims worldwide, marking the end of the Islamic holy month of fasting. This year’s Eid al-Fitr will be on July 5 (GMT+8) and the Taipei City Government’s Department of Information and Tourism (TPEDOIT) is planning to organize an event on the Islamic holiday to boost tourism.

The event will be held on the following weekend of Eid al-Fitr, inviting migrant workers, new immigrants, and citizens who are interested in the culture. They will also promote the Taipei City to be more Muslim-friendly, anticipating an increase of 25% more tourists in 2016 than two years ago, reaching 230,000 people.

Edited by Olivia Yang

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“Japan embraces Muslim visitors to bolster tourism" (Aljazeera)