TAIPEI (CNA) – The annual Taipei International Travel Fair (Taipei ITF, ITF台北國際旅展) will feature 950 exhibitors from 68 countries when it is held at the end of the month, but it will also be the first time Chinese tourism representatives will be absent from Taiwan’s signature travel fair.

The show, to take place at Exhibition Halls 1 and 3 of the Taipei World Trade Center from Oct. 27 to 30, will likely surpass the more than 361,000 visitors and over NT$3 billion (US$99.6 million) in sales seen last year, the Taiwan Visitors Association (TVA) said last week.

There will be new faces at this year’s fair, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, while Paraguay and the Solomon Islands have decided to return for the first time in about 10 years, said TVA Chairwoman Yeh Chu-lan (葉菊蘭).

Yeh said the TVA hopes to invite more than 100 countries to participate in next year’s event, which she described as the most popular travel fair in the Asia Pacific region that is accessible to the general public.

“In addition to selling outbound packages to Taiwanese, we want to take the opportunity to introduce Taiwan to the world as an ideal travel destination,” she said, hoping that foreign travel agents at the show to sell their packages will also be willing to promote Taiwan abroad.

Still, for the first time in 12 years, the Cross-Strait Taipei Travel Fair will not take place in conjunction with the annual Taipei International Travel Fair due to planning delays, according to the TVA.

According to the association, a delay in scheduling and planning made it impossible to hold the Cross-Strait Taipei Travel Fair this year.

The two sides were not able to reach a consensus on the fair’s arrangements by Aug. 10, at which point it was decided there was insufficient time to meet the October deadline, the association said.

Yeh said, however, that she hopes Taiwan and China can continue their healthy travel exchanges, adding that the association’s position to promote cross-strait tourism has never changed.

The tourism sector has voiced fears that the absence of China suggested there may no longer be a joint platform for the two sides to promote travel in an already sluggish market.

According to Tourism Bureau statistics, visitor arrivals from China in the first eight months of 2017 were down 34 percent from the same period a year earlier to 1.75 million.

There were some positive signs recently, however, that Chinese tourists’ interest in Taiwan could rebound.

More than 60,000 independent tourists (those not participating in tour groups) from China just visited Taiwan during the Chinese National Day “golden week,” the most since they were first allowed into Taiwan in 2011, according to the National Immigration Agency (NIA).

Total visitors for the week, including those in tour groups, were also up 40 percent year-on-year to over 80,000, NIA figures showed. 

By Lee Hsin-Yin