Welcome to our International travel section.

After last year's serious marketing problems caused by worldwide inflation and soaring costs, the travel industry faces a new season with both caution and hope. Many consumers, clutching their ever-dwindling supply of descretionary dollars, appear undecided about where to go in 1981. The price of fuel -- for heating the house, running the car and filling up jet planes -- remains a question mark. And the Reagan administration's plans for tax relief and economic stability now await action by Congress.

But the resort business is betting heavily that tourists like diamonds, are forever, that Americans want and need their vacations, both here and abroad. And with the much-maligned dollar staging a modest comeback on foreign exchanges and regaining some of its lost value, travel overseas becomes more enticing. Admittedly the dollar remains weak against certain currencies, and even where the exchange rate has risen favorably an American may discover part of the gain has been eaten up by inflationary increase in the price of hotel rooms and food.

Of course, if the dollar recovers so much strength that foreigners no longer consider a vacation here to be an irresistible bargain, then the record Visit U.S.A. trafic figure set in 1980 could drop sharply, hurting businessmen and our balance of payments.

All-inclusive tour packages continue to offer some of the best deals available today -- particularly when there is a written guarantee that the price of the land portion (accommodations, food sightseeing) cannot be raised by the tour operator after you've paid in full. Compare brochures, try to calculate savings, read the find print, consult a good travel agent.

Meanwhile, to put you in the right frame of mind, we offer a smorgasbord of ideas. Beginning on this page, Helmut Koenig explains how the independent traveler can still go it alone without going broke; Carole Shifrin reports that airlines are still offering special fares that lower the cost of flying; Molly Sinclair has some tips about buying insurance to cover illness on a trip. Inside, Sandy Rovner gives the latest word on jet lag and John Sherwood takes a firsthand look at the "other China," Taiwan.