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Oman-Taiwan seesaw


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Oman has the potential to become a new destination for Taiwanese tourists but it necessitates that travel agencies better understand Oman's tourism industry and the opportunities it has to offer, says a Taiwanese tourism official.

"With more airlines flying to Taiwan, it is a very good opportunity to expand our tourism cooperation with other countries, especially with the Gulf countries and other Middle Eastern nations, which are yet to be explored by Taiwanese tourists," Roget K.C. Hsu, secretary general of the Travel Agent Association of ROC, asserted.
   
Taiwan is becoming more focused on the Middle East as not many tourists are exploring this region, the official said. "The reason is that they do not have much information about this part of the world." Another reason may be that not many airliners are coming to Taiwan, said Roget, whose association has 3,350 agents which operate tours to many destinations, including Japan, Korea, China and Europe. 

Emirates flies to Taipei and this offers a good chance for Taiwanese agents to consider combined tours of Dubai and Oman especially given that Oman visa is issued on arrival for Taiwanese, he said adding, "We plan to operate tours to the Gulf countries. We had even planned a tour for our agents to Oman but it had to be postponed due to certain reasons."

Currently the main tourist destinations for Taiwanese include China, Japan, Korea and Southeast Asian countries.  However, not many Omani tourists, too, visit Taiwan and visitors from Oman mainly go there for business, Roget said, adding that a road map should be developed for bilateral cooperation in the tourism sector.

Muslim tourists
According to the official, Taiwan received 8 million tourists last year and is now focusing more on attracting tourists from Muslim countries by developing the necessary infrastructure to cater to the needs of Muslim tourists. "That is why the number of tourists from Malaysia has increased."

Tourists visiting Taiwan mainly come from China, Japan, Hong Kong, Korea and Malaysia, he said, noting that the contribution of tourism to the country's gross domestic product (GDP) is 3 to 4 per cent and is growing.

Medical tourists
Additionally, Roget said that many people are now choosing Taiwan as a medical tourism destination and the country received 120,000 medical tourists last year.

"There are very advanced medical facilities in Taiwan, and treatment is cheaper than in many other countries such as Singapore, Korea and Thailand," he concluded.

Gem of Asia
My trip to Taipei was not long enough to explore it thoroughly, but I am sure the fascinating mix of modernity and ancient wonders in the beating heart of the densely populated island wins the heart of travellers the moment they set foot in this pulsating metropolis.

Ancient religious and cultural practices still thrive in Taipei, a basin surrounded by low hills and taller mountains, with rivers running through it. Evergreen forests shrouded in fog were the first thing to captivate my eyes while travelling from Taoyuan international airport to the core of the city, where numerous and unmatched attractions were awaiting me.

All through the way, I saw hundreds of men and women riding scooters in the capital of a country which has the highest number of scooters per person on the planet. It is estimated that there are more than 15 million scooters in Taiwan.  In every nook and cranny, I saw gazillions of motorbikes permeating every street and sidewalk.

Some roads have special lanes for scooters, which can be easily rented by foreigners. But do not forget to buy raincoat gear up! Taiwan is overshadowed by China's monstrously growing economic dragon, but this has not stopped it from proving itself as an emerging economic and industrial powerhouse in the continent.

I did not expect to see such 'fascinating' infrastructure in Taipei, which is home to many towering buildings and awesome landmarks including museums, temples, galleries, monuments, parks and shopping malls. When in Taipei, do not miss the experience of travelling on the sleek white and orange bullet trains at speeds of up to 300km/h (186 mph) on a rail line that runs along the west coast of Taiwan from Taipei to the southern city of Kaohsiung.

My short journey took me to the Songshan Cultural and Creative Park, which strives to be a hub for inspiring and nurturing the spirit of creativity and attracts 300,000 visitors every month.

The park, which was once home to the first modernised tobacco factory in Taiwan, is involved in organising various artistic, cultural, and creativity events. The park also offers companies various indoor and outdoor space for rent.

Another place that I visited was Hsinchu Science and Industrial Park, Taiwan's first science park, whose aim is to foster innovation, scientific and technological development.

Inspired by Silicon Valley, the park is home to many established corporations and small startups. It is spread over 1,342 hectares and accommodates over 470 local and international companies and more than 150,000 employees.

To get in touch: elham@timesofoman.com

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