MIPIM Asia 2011 - Taiwan entering a new investment era, says minister

“Taiwan represents a huge opportunity for investors, not least in the tourism sector.”

So said Minister Dr Christina Y. Liu from the country’s council for economic planning and development, who expressed her surprise at the way some had branded her speech last year as ‘Taiwan is back’. ‘I never knew we went missing’, she joked to a packed conference room on Tuesday morning.

The global centre had shifted from west to east, she said, with business opportunities driven by population trends. Against a backdrop of an expected doubling of the urban population across Asia from 2010 to 2050 (1,649m – 3,247m) a key indicator is in tourism. And in that respect, Taiwan is ‘marching into a new era of investment’ and a new phase of development, she said, where the barriers particularly in trade were coming down, all around. Just three years ago there were no direct flights from Taiwan to China. Now there are 558 flights per week, almost all of them fully booked. Similarly, with a growth in flights from Taiwan to China from 0 three years ago to 558 flights per week now, the impact on the business economy is considerable, many using the one hour 20 minute trip from Taipei to Shanghai for their business trips. Similarly no tourists made the trip from China to Taiwan. Now that figure is 1.5 million, or 30 per cent of the entire tourist market in the country. When one considers the 24 million who go to Hong Kong from China each year, the potential growth is clear for all to see.

People come to ‘see cultural difference’, with the politics-crazy Taiwanese society able to debate freely on TV and beyond. Visitors also come to take advantage of Taiwan’s rapidly growing market for medical check-ups. What is needed next is growth in the country’s IT area and infrastructure, particularly regarding investment in expanding the airport.

The introduction preceded a conference which addressed issues as they relate to risks, opportunities and  returns of east to west investments and flows, also included BNP Paribas Real Estate CEO David Aubin. Aubin said Europe  ‘is still there’ and represents a stable environment for investment but the obsolescence of the real estate is a key issue for the region, along with a lack of supply of new, environmentally friendly buildings

Another burgeoning market for Taiwan is in medicine, said Liu, with medical check-ups a popular reason for Chinese visitors to Taiwan. Last year Taiwan experienced 10.9 per cent GDP growth and 33 per cent growth in private investment.

They must be doing something right.

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