Taiwan’s trial visa waiver programme for five ASEAN countries, including Brunei, may be extended pending a review by the Taiwanese government this August.

Since August 2016, Brunei — along with the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia — has enjoyed visa-free travel to Taiwan for up to 30 days.

Alan Hao Yang (R) CEO at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, National Chengchi University speaks to the media. Photo: Rasidah Hj Abu Bakar/The Scoop

The relaxation of visa rules aims to promote people-to-people exchanges as part of Taiwan’s New Southbound Policy (NSP), said Alan Hao Yang,  CEO of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at National Chengchi University.

The NSP currently grants visa-free travel to five ASEAN countries and simplified visa regulations for the other five — Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Indonesia and Vietnam.

Yang said the implementation of the visa waiver programme has helped boost the number of ASEAN visitors to Taiwan in 2017.

“Taiwan recorded 1.99 million visitors from the 18 NSP partner countries between January and November 2017. This number represented 20 per cent of Taiwan’s foreign arrivals,” he said, adding that they aim to target five million tourists from ASEAN by 2020.

Yang, who is also director for the Prospect Foundation, a non-profit that researches foreign policy and international affairs, said Taiwan wants to create a more “Muslim-friendly” environment to attract Muslim visitors from NSP partner countries such as Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia. 

Cherry blossoms trees at the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village, Taiwan. Photo: Rasidah Hj Abu Bakar/The Scoop

Currently, more than 150 hotels and restaurants in Taiwan are already halal-certified.

The visa waiver project is one of Taiwan’s current flagship programmes for tourism under the New Southbound Policy

The New Southbound Policy is an economic strategy that promotes bilateral cooperation with partner countries in areas of industry sector, cultural exchange, tourism, agricultural cooperation and talent exchange.