Taiwan's tourism promotion is among the best in the region. And it needs to be. It is at least arguable that Taiwan has always had some fundamental problems in presenting itself as a tourist destination. First, our climate is cool during the North American and European winter, so we cannot offer beach holidays as escapes from the ice and snow - as, for instance, Thailand does with spectacular success. Second, Taiwan is not cheap. It was so a generation ago, and students from nearby countries often came here in summer for an inexpensive holiday. This is no longer the case. In Vietnam you can live like a king on a pittance, but not in Taiwan. Third, Taiwan's society is industrialised and relatively modern. If people seek authentic traditional cultures, and quaint customs that have elsewhere fallen into disuse, they will not find that many here. Finally, Taiwan's genuine uniqueness lies in its massive mountains, the highest in East Asia. But these are unlikely ever to be magnets drawing visitors on a vast scale. Yet all these things are true of Japan as well. Why, then, does it get so many more tourists than Taiwan? It is not for want to trying on Taiwan's part. Generation after generation of tourism bureau directors have struggled to lure more visitors here, and indeed the new director, Hsu Wen-sheng, confidently predicts a 16 per cent increase by the end of the year. A glance at the places the visitors will come from, however, illustrates the basic problem. Japan is the main source, followed by Hong Kong and Macau. My guess is that Japanese visitors come for a quick round trip, to view places where their family members worked before Japan surrendered the island in 1945. The Hong Kong and Macau visitors I know mostly come over here for the weekend - hardly a cash generator for Taiwan's tourism coffers. But there are many attractive sites here: hotels are often superb, and Taipei is one of Asia's more vibrant cities. Paradoxically, the people who would most like to visit the island, especially to experience its standard of living, are mainland Chinese. But currently, only carefully judged categories of visitors from the mainland are allowed to visit. My prediction is that one day the problem of visitors who disappear into the mist from their tour groups will be solved, and this quasi-ban will be lifted. Then Taiwan's hotels will overflow, its quite extraordinary number of internal flights and its ultra-modern trains will be booked solid, and its justifiably famous sites will experience a deserved and unparalleled boom.