Taiwan's Tourism Bureau today announced a new program to attract Japanese tourists.

For the final two months of 2016, one in every four Japanese tourists traveling as part of a group will fly for free to Taiwan.

An estimated 2,500 tour groups are expected to benefit from the program. The Tourism Bureau will cooperate with travel agencies and airline companies to carry out the scheme.

Many commentators have described this year as a “harsh winter” for Taiwan’s tourism industry, with concern that Beijing may have curbed the number of Chinese citizens who can travel to Taiwan in oder to "punish" the new Taiwan-centric government elected in January. Anecdotal evidence suggests restrictions have hit tour group operators, and the latest statistics show visitors from China dropped by more than 110,000 in August from the same period last year.

Tourism Bureau director-general Chou Yung-hui (周永暉) said in September that the number of Japanese tourists to Taiwan this year should surpass 2 million by the end of 2016, up from around 1.6 million in 2015.

A total of 10.4 million visitors came to Taiwan in 2015, up 5.3 percent from the 9.9 million in 2014. Despite the drop in the number of Chinese visitors, the Tourism Bureau says the number of tourists traveling to Taiwan could still reach 10 million this year. The number of visitors from South Korea, Thailand, Japan and Hong Kong have all increased this year.

Of Japan's 127.3 million people, about 24 percent own a passport and more than 16 million traveled abroad last year, according to the Tourism Bureau. China, South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong are the most popular destinations for Japanese.

First Editor: Olivia Yang
Second Editor: Edward White