Visa-waiver program adds to European travel surge


TAIPEI–The total number of Taiwanese tourists that traveled to Europe in 2011 was expected to increase nearly 50 percent from a year ago thanks to both the introduction of the European Union’s visa-waiver program and a wedding rush brought on by the centennial anniversary of the R.O.C., experts said Friday. Around 200,000 Taiwanese departures for European countries have been recorded for the first nine months of the year, a 30 percent year-on-year growth, local travel agencies said, citing Tourism Bureau statistics.

The surge was mainly a result of simplified travel procedures following the introduction of the visa-waiver program, which started this January, allowing Taiwanese passport holders to enter 35 European countries visa-free for stays of up to 90 days within a six-month period.

“European-bound travel has seen an explosion,” said Peng Hung-hsiang, official of the Travel Quality Assurance Association.

Peng expects even better market performance in the last quarter of the year, as those who flock to Europe for Christmas or New Year’s Eve celebrations are likely to extend the growth margin.

According to industry insiders, another factor that has reinforced the European travel fever is the wedding rush brought on by the R.O.C.’s centennial anniversary.