Bangkok, Aug. 20 (CNA) Transportation Minister Wang Kwo-tsai (王國材) said Saturday that he had met the previous day with tourism officials on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Tourism Ministers Meeting and discussed Taiwan’s plans to lift its border restrictions when the domestic COVID-19 situation eases.
Speaking to CNA, Wang said he told the tourism officials who were attending the APEC meeting in Bangkok, Thailand that it was only a matter of time before Taiwan opens it borders fully again, as the number of domestic COVID-19 cases has now dropped to about 20,000 per day.
In pre-COVID times, Taiwan allowed visa-free entry for visitors from many countries, Wang said, adding that the resumption of that program is now a top priority for his ministry.
In the interim, however, Taiwan is considering granting visas on arrival to visitors from those countries, he said in his talks with tourism ministers from Thailand, the Philippines, and Malaysia, and deputy tourism ministers from Japan, South Korea and Vietnam, according to a statement released by the Transportation Ministry.
In addition to talking on the sidelines of the APEC meeting about the future of tourism, Wang also gave a speech during one of the formal sessions, speaking about Taiwan’s efforts to improve the natural environment of its mountains and seas.
Those efforts are part of the Taiwan government’s policies to open up its mountainous and marine areas that have been closed to the public, Wang said in the speech, which reflected one of the APEC meeting’s themes of achieving environmental sustainability.
Meanwhile, Wang told CNA that he also attended a banquet with representatives from the Thai Travel Agents Association (TTAA) and the Association of Thai Travel Agents (ATTA), at which he proposed a collaboration plan for country-hopping tour packages, which would allow international arrivals in Thailand to also visit Taiwan.
In return, Taiwanese travel agencies would also promote Thailand tours on their itineraries, which would serve to not only increase the number of flights between the two countries but also help to revitalize their tourism industries, he said.
Wang said members of the two Thai associations told him that Taiwan was the No. 2 destination among Thai travelers and that they have been receiving inquiries about visits to Taiwan.
According to an APEC news release, the attendees at the Tourism Ministers Meeting said they would consider putting forward policy recommendations to ensure that the economic benefits from tourism are distributed equitably among local communities.
These will include policies to promote tourism itineraries that are sustainable, comprehensive, and respectful of local and traditional knowledge; gender-responsive policies to ensure women’s full and equal participation in the tourism sector; and the adoption of technology to help manage all aspects of tourism, such as streamlining visa mechanisms, according to the news release.
The 11th APEC Tourism Ministers Meeting was held in Bangkok Aug. 14-20 under the theme of regenerating tourism markets.
(By Lu Hsin-hui, Yu Hsiao-han and Sean Lin)


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