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Taiwan looking to open borders to tourists by 3rd quarter

Discussions underway on whether individual or group tours would be allowed to enter first

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Jiufen at night. (New Taipei City Tourism and Travel Department photo)

Jiufen at night. (New Taipei City Tourism and Travel Department photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The Tourism Bureau on Monday (Feb. 14) announced it is hoping the country will be able to open its borders to tourists by the third quarter.

At a press briefing, Tourism Bureau Director Chang Hsi-tsung (張錫聰) said preparations are underway to open Taiwan's borders to tourism in the near future. He said he has held eight group meetings and met with key figures in the tourism industry and that suggestions for lifting travel restrictions have been put forward.

Chang said that the bureau hopes cross-border tourism can be conditionally reopened in stages with the permission of the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC). He said that a few days ago, tour companies, the CECC, the Tourism Bureau, and other government departments met to discuss the matter.

Chang said the preliminary decision was that in addition to opening the borders to business travelers in March, Taiwan could allow foreign tourists starting from the third or fourth quarter under the condition they are vaccinated to a certain degree.

However, whether the entry ban would first be lifted for tour groups, individual tourists, or both simultaneously depends on further discussions. Regarding the qualifications for shortened quarantines for business travelers, Chang said the tourism bureau is still working out what types of business people will be included.

During a press conference on Monday (Feb. 15), CECC head Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said that priority will be placed on opening the borders to foreign tourists, as opposed to allowing Taiwanese group tours to travel overseas, as the former will boost Taiwan's foreign exchange reserves but the latter risks exposure to the virus. Chen said overseas tours are also a possibility if new travel bubbles can be established.

As for whether prospective tourists must be vaccinated and boosted against COVID, he said discussions on the vaccine requirements are still ongoing.

Chen Hsiu-hsi (陳秀熙), a professor at National Taiwan University's College of Public Health, was cited by CNA as saying that Taiwan could lift its ban on tour groups traveling overseas by June. However, Hwang Kao-pin (黃高彬), a physician at China Medical University Hospital, predicted that outbound tours will not be allowed until the end of the year.