Taiwanese tourists can stay longer, visa-free - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Taiwanese tourists can stay longer, visa-free

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by Krystal Paco

Guam - Guam and the commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands have had a visa waiver program for Taiwanese tourists since 1997 and effective next month, the United States will, too. According to Guam Visitors Bureau general manager Joanne Camacho, the extended visa waiver for the U.S. is welcome news, as it means restrictions have been lifted for Guam.

"I feel that it's a plus for the United States and being part of the United States it'll be a plus for us as well," she said.

Presently, Taiwanese tourists are restricted to visiting Guam and the CNMI for a maximum of 45 days and must travel directly from Taiwan to the islands. With the approved U.S. visa program, Taiwanese tourists can stay an extended 90 days on the island and originate from anywhere else in the world.

Although the extended program means Guam will compete with the U.S., Camacho isn't concerned as this isn't the first time Guam has been testing grounds for U.S. tourism markets. "If anything it's an indication first we had Japanese coming to our island before the United States. Then the United States included Japan. Likewise with Korea. Korea was given to Guam first under the Guam CNMI Visa Waiver Program and now Korea's a go for the United States. So it's like a pilot program. We are 'Where America's Day Begins'," she said.

For Fiscal Year 2012, GVB recorded 50,000 Taiwan visitors, a 22 percent increase from the prior year mainly thanks to China Airlines and Eva Air servicing Guam.

Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo has stated both the U.S. and Guam will benefit from the extended program, adding, "Taiwan to the visa waiver program will also mean increased travel to the U.S., including Guam. Guam has seen an increase in tourism and business opportunities stemming from Taiwan's inclusion in our Guam Visa Waiver Program, and this impact is evident in our island's thriving Taiwanese community. I am hopeful that Taiwan's inclusion in the U.S. Visa Waiver program will likely have the same effect on a national scale and will be beneficial for our country's tourism industry and many American workers."

Camacho in the meantime says this is a step in the right direction towards our goal of obtaining a China visa waiver program.

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