Europe-Taiwan travel gets easier as island aims for tourism record

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The Independent Travel

Taiwanese government officials said the the country will welcome its 5 millionth visitor by the end of the month, a sign of how far the tiny island has grown in prominence on the tourism stage.

Taiwan's premier Wu-Den-yih said that the 5 millionth arrival will be a "magic number" for Taiwan, which expects to welcome a total of between 5.3 and 5.5 million visitors in total this year.

The country has set itself ambitious tourism targets, aiming for a whopping six million visitors in 2011, with China accounting for a growing proportion of visitors since rules were relaxed in 2008.

However, Taiwan is also keen to stress that its tourism is reciprocal - the number of Taiwanese traveling abroad is forecast to grow to nine million, according to Den-yih.

This week, European authorities approved Taiwan's inclusion in the EU visa-waiver program, which will allow Taiwanese visitors to travel within 25 European "Schengen Zone" countries without a visa.

It's expected to boost the number of Taiwanese visitors to the continent by at least 30 percent.

European visitors can already travel to Taiwan without a visa, a privilege which was extended to Romanian, Bulgarian and Cypriot nationals on November 11.

In a further bid to boost incoming visitors, the country is also planning to market itself as a medical tourism destination, aiming to capture a share in the lucrative market from Asian rivals Singapore, Thailand and South Korea.