People holding walking sticks cross a bridge in an undisclosed location on Sunday. Photo courtesy of Lion Travel via CNA

/ Staff writer, with CNA

The Tourism Bureau has rolled out several initiatives to boost a post-COVID-19 recovery in the domestic travel sector, including themed itineraries, subsidiaries to travel agencies and a NT$5 million (US$164,647) subsidy program for seniors.

The bureau early this month brought back a program to offer charter-flight subsidiaries to travel agencies that bring international tourists to Hualien and Taitung counties.

Under the program, travel operators that charter flights carrying 50 or more tourists from other countries and land in Hualien or Taitung are entitled to subsidies, with flights from Japan eligible to receive a NT$385,000 subsidy, while those from South Korea can get, 0 NT$0,35 the bureau said.

Charter flights from China, Hong Kong, Macau and other countries or areas can each receive subsidies of NT$285,000, it said.

Moreover, travel operators that charter flights with a load factor of more than 50 percent are eligible for additional subsidies, it said.

Meanwhile, to tap into the potential of the estimated NT$100 billion over-55s domestic travel market, the bureau in August last year launched its “Golden Years” program.

The program comprises eight itineraries catering to the demographic based on three major themes: the environment, culture, and lifestyles of health and sustainability, the bureau said.

The eight itineraries include whale and dolphin watching in Hualien County, a ride on the Breezy Blue excursion train between Taitung and Pingtung County's Fangliao Township (Fangliao) and a ride on the Alishan Forestry Railway's heritage trains in Chiayi County.

In 2021, domestic travel by Taiwanese tourists aged 55 or older totaled NT$40 billion, Tourism Bureau Deputy Director-General Trust Lin (林信) said.

Foreign seniors were also an important source of tourists, accounting for 15 percent of inbound travelers, bringing an estimated NT$60 billion each year to Taiwan, Lin said.

The bureau also launched a NT$5 million government-run travel subsidy plan for domestic travelers aged 65 or older in July last year after a hiatus of more than two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under the subsidy program, Taiwanese aged 65 or older taking part in travel agency-organized tour groups of more than six people are entitled to a daily subsidy of NT$500 per person, provided the trip includes at least one night at a hotel and at least Half of the participants are 65 or older.

However, the total subsidy to cover transportation and accommodation is capped at NT$15,000 per tour group, the bureau said.

In related developments, to welcome foreign visitors following Taiwan lifting its COVID-19 pandemic border controls in October last year, the tea-themed CHO Stay Capsule Hotel at Taoyuan International Airport Terminal 2 has reopened.

The hotel said that its award-winning design was inspired by the layout of tea plantations and aims to give guests a taste of Taiwan's tea culture.

News source: TAIPEI TIMES