With beautiful beaches, towering mountains, convenient bullet trains, a world-class culinary scene and a weak currency, Taiwan is attracting more tourists than ever, with the lion’s share coming from neighboring Asian countries, providing an opportunity for investors with experience in Asian markets.
Last year, Taiwan welcomed nearly 10 million visitors, a new record. That represents a 160 percent increase since 2008.
These numbers are driving hotel investment, with 226 new hotels scheduled to open nationwide between April of this year and mid-2016.
Earlier this month, the China-based subsidiary of Swiss International Hotels Group signed a franchise agreement with YOKO International Corporation, which is based in Taipei, Taiwan’s capital. The subsidiary, Swiss International Hotels (China) Group, already owns and operates hotels in the Chinese cities of Nanchang and Xiamen, the latter situated on the Taiwan Strait.
"We have wanted to enter the hospitality market for some time now and are excited to be aligned with Swiss International Hotels and its brands," said YOKO Chairman Chou Ming Qing. "We can benefit tremendously from their extensive experience and knowhow."
The Taiwan deal will bring three to five Swiss International Hotel-branded hotels to Taiwan in the coming five years. The first to open will be a 270-room hotel in the high-tech development zone of Hsinchu, the center of Taiwan’s lucrative semiconductor and high-tech industries. The hotel is scheduled to open in 2017.
There is plenty of other noteworthy action.
One of the newest five-star entrants in the Taiwan market is the 320-room Taipei Marriott Hotel, which opened in July.
Other international brands are following Marriott into this appealing market, which is home to the world’s 26th-largest economy while only being the size of the state of Kentucky, in the US.
A Sheraton Four Points opened the same month on the Taiwanese archipelago of Penghu, the first internationally branded five-star there. A Marriott Courtyard will open in Taipei’s Nangang district later this year and a Crowne Plaza will open its doors in Taoyuan, near Taiwan’s busiest airport, in 2016. Marriott is also planning to open a Renaissance hotel in Taipei’s Shilin district. Further down the west coast in Taichung, InterContinental is preparing to launch a hotel in 2018.
“Marriott International sees unlimited potential in Taiwan’s future,” Henry Lee, Marriott’s Greater China COO, told the American Chamber of Commerce in Taiwan recently.
The hotels are following the tourists.
In the first seven months of this year, the island nation, officially known as the Republic of China, welcomed more than 5.8 million visitors from abroad, a year-on-year increase of 3.4 percent, according to government statistics. Of those visitors, a large percentage came from its linguistically and culturally connected neighbors in the People’s Republic of China.
Mainland China itself accounted for 2.4 million, or 41 percent of total visitors from January through July, up 4 percent year on year. It is worth noting that the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau combined to supply Taiwan with 14.4 percent - up 5.9 percent over last year.
Accounting for 14.8 percent of arrivals, Japan is an important market for Taiwan. Unlike China and South Korea, Taiwan has a largely favorable view of Japan. South Korea is currently the fastest-growing source of visitors to Taiwan. Visits from South Korea were up 23.2 percent, but only accounted for 6.3 percent of total visits. The 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations combined for 13 percent of international visits.
Notably absent from Taiwan’s inbound numbers are the outbound markets from Western countries. The US accounted for less than 5 percent of arrivals, followed by Europe (2.7 percent) and Australia/New Zealand (0.9 percent). With booming interest from Asia, however, it is a matter of time before Western travelers begin to catch on to the country’s charms.