EVA Air, Taiwan’s second largest commercial airline, launched its Taipei-O’Hare nonstop flight on November 3rd, making the Windy City the airline’s eighth service destination in the US. Currently, eight American cities provide nonstop service to Taiwan, and 109 nonstop flights occur between Taiwan and North America every week. Taiwan and the US are expanding travel options to facilitate bilateral tourism.
In September, a Taiwanese delegation of Tourism Bureau officials, travel agents, and business representatives visited New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles to promote tourism to Taiwan. From January-August 2016, over 330,000 Americans visited Taiwan, a year-on-year increase of 7.87%. Because Chinese tourism has declined sharply since May, North America is becoming one of the primary sources of visitor arrivals in Taiwan.
The Midwest awaits the creation of a nonstop flight route with Taiwan that could contribute nearly $200 million in economic activity annually to Greater Chicago. In 2015, Taiwanese travelers in the US spent more than $2.2 billion and over half went to easily accessible California. Yet according to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the new flight could help O’Hare Airport reach its goal of serving 55 million travelers annually by 2020.
Meanwhile, the popularity of ABC sitcom Fresh off the Boat has benefitted Taiwan’s tourism industry by garnering American media exposure for Taiwan. In October 2016, the show aired its season three premiere, which follows the main characters as they visit prominent landmarks in Taiwan like Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall and the Grand Hotel. Local airlines, hotels, and government offered deals to underwrite the episode’s production. This episode marked the first time any American network TV show had ever filmed in Taipei.
US-Taiwan ties are growing in other facets besides travel and tourism. American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Chairman James Moriarty announced in late October that the US and Taiwan will strengthen economic, educational, and global cooperation. Taiwan is America’s 12th largest trade partner and 7th largest source of international students. Last year, the two parties signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) establishing a framework to expand collaboration in transnational issues, including public health and humanitarian relief.
Chien-Chou “Antonio” Liao is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington and a recent graduate of American University School of International Service.
Kim Meihua Roy is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington and a student at Brigham Young University.