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Taiwanese pop stars big in Asia

Taipei, July 23 (CNA) Taiwanese pop stars have succeeded in spreading their charms across borders, attracting large numbers of fans from other Asian countries and making significant contributions to the country's tourism revenue, tourism officials said.

Janice Lai, director-general of the Tourism Bureau under the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, said that since F4 -- a four-member pop group -- began acting as a spokesman for Taiwanese tourism in 2007, the strategy of using popular artists to attract foreign tourists to Taiwan has proven successful, especially over the past two years.

The number of tourist arrivals from Japan to Taiwan in 2007 set a record high of over 1.16 million -- a stark contrast to a decrease in the number of Japan's overall outbound travelers that same year, Lai said.

That same year, the number of South Korean visitors to Taiwan also grew by an annual rate of 15.06 percent to 220,000 -- the first time it had surpassed the 200,000-mark, she added.

In addition to fans from Japan and South Korea in Northeastern Asia, those from China, Singapore, Malaysia, Macau, Thailand, the Philippines and even the United States and Canada have come to Taiwan in the hope of getting close to their idols.

F4 is considered the vanguard of the current craze for Taiwanese popular singers and young TV drama stars among young men and women in Southeast Asia, and its four nice-looking members are believed to have helped generate more than NT$1.1 billion (US$33.54 million) in tourism dollars for Taiwan.

Although the tourism sector in many countries has been hit hard by the global financial crisis, Liu Si-lin, a section chief at the Tourism Bureau, said that in terms of reasons listed by visitors for coming to Taiwan, the number of foreign fans is still increasing.

Numbers arriving from Hong Kong, Macau and Malaysia in the first four months of this year still increased compared to last year levels, according to Liu.

Making the most out of this fad for Taiwanese mandopop artists, the Tourism Bureau has invited A-mei and Jolin Tsai, two of Taiwan's top pop divas, to speak on behalf of Taiwanese tourism in various Southeast Asian countries, efforts that have paid off.

For instance, Tsai, who serves as a "trend spotter, " is responsible for introducing fun places and Taiwan's unique trends to Southeast Asian young adults, while Wu Nien-jen, a famous writer, is in charge of leading visitors to experience Taiwan's most interesting folk traditions in depth.

The benefits of the strategy of using celebrities to promote travel to Taiwan are expected to become even more apparent in the coming years, now that the Executive Yuan has included the cultural innovation industry as one of its six flagship industries in a bid to promote Taiwan as an Asia-Pacific cultural hub, bureau officials predicted.

(By Flor Wang)


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