Mongolia, Taiwan looking for starting charter flights

Taiwan and Mongolia are contemplating setting up direct charter flights to promote bilateral tourism and trade relations, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) official said Tuesday.

“Both sides are keen on developing closer exchanges and boosting tourism. Currently we are in talks on possible charter flights, which would benefit tourists from both sides if the deal goes through, ” Lin Jinn-jong, director-general of the MOFA’s Department of West Asian Affairs, said at a press briefing.

The direct charters would lower airfares between the two destinations to around US$500 from the current US$1,000, Lin said. At present, visitors must enter Mongolia via third countries, such as South Korea and China.

About 2,000 Taiwanese tourists visit Mongolia annually, Lin said. Charter flights would not only benefit tourists but also 400 Mongolian students in Taiwan.

According to Lin, although bilateral trade volume is small, the US$8.02 million in trade between Taiwan and Mongolia in the first half represented 207 percent growth compared to the first six months of 2009.

As of 2009, Taiwan is Mongolia’s 15th largest trade partner and Taiwanese companies had invested US$19.65 million there.

Taiwan does not have official diplomatic ties with Mongolia, which declared independence in 1911, the year that the Qing Dynasty fell.

However, Lin said, the central Asian country is intent on improving its economy through tourism and attracting foreign investment from foreign countries, including Taiwan.

That was why the charter flight issue was raised during the 9th Taiwan-Mongolia Joint Economic Meeting, which was held in the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar on Sept. 9, he said.

More than 100 participants from Taiwan’s Chinese International Economic Cooperation Association and its counterpart the Mongolian Chamber of Commerce and Industry attended the meeting, which will be held in Taiwan next year.

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