The Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI, 工研院) will soon unveil a Web-based application that provides basic information on Taiwan’s approximately 130 tourist factories, hoping to help consumers better enjoy an already thriving tourism niche.
Among its many features, the app incorporates a global positioning system that will help smartphone and tablet computer users more easily locate the factories, said Jason Chen (陳長雄), who is in charge of the project.
According to Chen, some factories are situated in suburban areas or areas without public transportation, and, as a result, visitors sometimes have trouble finding them.
The Chinese version will be released in the middle of next month, Chen said, while an English version is scheduled to be released next year to meet demand from a growing number of foreign visitors.
Taiwan has seen a boom over the past few years in the development of tourist factories, which combine tourism with old-economy businesses, such as handicraft or beverage producers.
The Ministry of Economic Affairs said on Friday it expects to see continuing growth in the sector.
The ministry and the institute have jointly promoted the concept since 2003, but it was not until fairly recently that the idea began to really materialize.
The factories drew 5 million visitors in 2010, which generated NT$1.3 billion (US$43.35 million) in revenue. The numbers rose last year to 6.5 million visits and NT$1.63 billion in revenue, according to ministry statistics.
The ministry expects 8 million visits to generate more than NT$2 billion this year, based on a strong first half, in which tourist factories drew 5.5 million visitors and pulled in NT$1.3 billion in revenues.
The ministry attributed the dramatic growth to the growing number of businesses interested in joining the club. Some 20 to 30 additional applications to take part in the program are received each year, double or even triple the number actually approved.
Chang Hui-der (張慧德), an economics official, said that tours of the factories have become a great vacation option for Taiwanese, as the factories “simply cover everything,” from pastries and desserts to clothes and cosmetics.