Mon, Jan 23, 2006 - Page 10 News List

Number of tourist visits to Taiwan continues to rise

ROOM FOR GROWTH The number of visitors to Taiwan rose 14 percent last year, and tourism firms are betting Chinese tourists will provide an even larger boost

By Jackie Lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

In this respect, the Tourism Bureau this year has designed a Tourism Flagship Plan to promote the nation's top attractions and cultural festivals.

The eight flagship sights include the Taipei 101 skyscraper, National Palace Museum, Love River (愛河) in Kaohsiung, Yushan (玉山), Sun Moon Lake, Alishan, Kenting National Park and Taroko Gorge (太魯閣).

Also trumpeted are the four specialties that can be expected in Taiwan -- cuisine, night markets, hospitality and an around-the-clock tourism environment -- and cultural events like the Taiwan Lantern Festival, Yenshui Fireworks Festival and Sanyi Wood Carving Art Festival.

Limited Budget

As rich as this might sound, the scanty budget allocated for the Tourism Bureau always leaves officials scratching their heads to come up with alluring campaigns.

The bureau has a budget of around NT$320 million this year earmarked for overseas marketing activities, said Jean Huang (黃靜惠), director of the bureau's international affairs division.

The amount is the same as last year.

"Marketing is like burning money, but it's crucial to strengthen people's impressions by mentioning Taiwan again and again. Placing a seconds-long commercial on CNN costs tens of thousands of NT dollars. The budget we have is just not enough," she said.

Hong Kong has designated this year as the Discover Hong Kong Year. To attract the world's attention, it has budgeted around NT$2.8 billion -- nearly nine times the amount Taiwan has set aside -- for various promotions, Huang said.

"Taiwan is not well-known internationally and creative publicity ideas are therefore important," she said.

Recent promotions

Since 2004, the bureau has eyed different kinds of media to raise the nation's profile around the world.

Campaigns in Japan have included colorfully painted Yamanote trains -- which circle Tokyo's downtown -- and print advertising messages on the transparent covers of savings bankbooks offered by Japan's post offices.

The reaction has also been strong to a campaign that featured pop diva Chang Hui-mei (張惠妹), better known as A-mei (阿妹), as a spokeswoman to lure Southeast Asian tourists.

Step by step, the bureau expects to attract 3.75 million foreign visitors this year, which has been named the Taiwan Youth Travel Year and targets backpackers.

But to prosper, tourism infrastructure and services cannot be built overnight, and therefore the government will need to examine ways to create a ripple effect to help make the industry thrive, Chao said.

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