Taiwan will offer 1,000 Japanese nationals a free tour of the country as part of efforts to revive its tourism industry, which was badly hurt by the SARS epidemic, Taiwan officials said Tuesday in Tokyo.

The Tokyo office of the Taiwan Visitors Association also said an additional 5,000 Japanese will be eligible for tours of Taiwan at bargain-basement prices. The details of this offer will be announced next month.

The WHO removed Taiwan on Saturday from its red-flagged zones for transmission of severe acute respiratory syndrome. Japan lifted its travel advisory for Taiwan the same day.

According to the tourism office, 1,000 Japanese will be chosen in a drawing Aug. 4 for the free tour of Taiwan. Round-trip airfare, lodging, meals and optional tours will be provided free of charge to the winners of a two-night stay in Taipei between mid-August and the end of September.

The Taiwan government has earmarked around 1.2 billion yen for the tourism recovery drive, more than 40 percent of which will be directed at Japan.

According to Taiwanese statistics, the number of Japanese tourists plummeted 56 percent year-on-year to 33,624 in April, 90 percent to 7,623 in May and roughly 95 percent to some 7,000 in June.

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