Taiwan looks to attract Kiwi tourists

If you are looking for somewhere to holiday in 2017, government officials in Taiwan say they might have the answer.

With tourist numbers from China having decreased in the past year, officials in Taipei say they'd like more visitors from Southeast Asia and also New Zealand.

Roy Chen operates a charter boat in Taiwan's tourism hotspot of Sun Moon Lake. The lake in central Taiwan, surrounded by temples and high-rise hotels, attracts 8 million visitors a year.

But those numbers are under threat. Mainland China, Taiwan's largest tourist market, has started restricting its citizens from visiting the island.

"If we don't have tourists, we don't have work," says boat tour operator Roy Chen.

That's why Mr Chen and other tourist operators are welcoming the Taiwanese government's decision to look at attracting more visitors from other countries.

Officials in Taiwan recently launched the new Southbound Policy, an initiative aimed at promoting stronger relations with 18 Southeast Asian countries, including New Zealand. One of the key drivers is tourism.

Only 12,000 New Zealanders visited Taiwan in the past year. Government officials in Taipei say they'd like that number to increase by 10 percent in the next 12 months.

"Although the number is not big, we see the potential, so the bureau we try to do more advertisements," says Eric Lin of the Taiwan Tourism Bureau. "We would like to increase the Taiwan tourism image."

Mr Lin says he believes Taiwan has a lot to offer tourists, including cycle trails, night markets and historic temples.

An old gold mining settlement in the north of Taiwan has become a tourist attraction. Eighty percent of the population there rely on tourism as their key source of income.

"We do hope the New Zealanders come, the Kiwis come, to see us," says tourist guide Ivy Chen. "We are different from your country."

With officials in Taipei looking at ways to make that more possible, Ms Chen and other tourist operators may just get their wish.