Tue, Mar 20, 2018 - Page 11 News List

INTERVIEW: Resort eyes recovery after Hualien quake disruption

Promised Land Resort & Lagoon in Hualien County’s Shoufeng Township took a hard hit from a Feb. 6 earthquake that saw occupancy rates slump from 90 percent to 30 percent over the Lunar New Year holiday. While conservative about its business prospects in the short term, the five-star resort is looking at modest growth for the whole of this year on improved transportation links. The property’s general manager, Jerry Kang, shed some light on the resort’s development strategies during an interview with ‘Taipei Times’ staff reporter Crystal Hsu in Hualien on Thursday last week

Promised Land Resort & Lagoon general manager Jerry Kang poses for a photograph at the resort in Hualien County during an interview with the Taipei Times on Thursday last week.

Photo: Crystal Hsu, Taipei Times

Taipei Times: How badly was the Promised Land Resort & Lagoon (花蓮理想大地渡假飯店) affected by the earthquake on Feb. 6 that killed 17 people and injured 291 and a spate of aftershocks?

Jerry Kang (康富雄): The tremors wreaked havoc on the recreation and leisure industries in Hualien, though Promised Land Resort emerged physically unscathed.

Many guests canceled reservations and stayed away from Hualien altogether, plunging our occupancy rates from 90 percent to 30 percent over the Lunar New Year holiday.

That translated into losses of NT$20 million (US$684,908) in revenue.

Sentiment might remain soft for a while, though it has showed signs of improvement.

Our rooms are almost 100 percent sold out for the Tomb-Sweeping Festival early next month.

Assorted promotional campaigns and discounts appear to have borne fruit, but greater efforts are needed for a full-fledged recovery.

We are strengthening activity packages and service quality to woo guests.

TT: Would you discuss the resort’s financial performance last year and its business prospects for this year?

Kang: We failed to make money last year because a few major storms created transportation difficulties and a persistent slump in the number of Chinese tourists intensified competition.

I have a bleak view for the tourism industry in the short term.

The earthquakes in February raised safety concerns and more time is likely needed for travelers to regain confidence.

All the bricks and mortar at Promised Land remain intact as you can see for yourself.

However, I am positive about business growth for the whole of this year.

The government has completed part of the project to upgrade the highway linking Yilan County’s Suao Township (蘇澳) and Hualien County. That makes it easier to visit Hualien by car.

Construction of the other segments is due to be finish this year and next year.

Hotels in Hualien will benefit from the infrastructure enhancement. In fact, hotel operators in Hualien are looking at an occupancy rate increase of between 5 percent and 10 this year on the back of the improved infrastructure.

We previously aimed to raise our room rates by between 2 percent and 5 percent this year, and offer better packages and quality of service, but we put off the adjustments for the time being to see how the market fares following the earthquakes.

TT: How has the decline in the number of Chinese tourists affected the resort?

Kang: The property took an indirect blow from shrinking numbers of Chinese tourists, who made a big contribution to tourism revenue in Hualien due to their large presence.

Chinese tourists like to visit Taroko Gorge and other natural scenic spots in Hualien.

Lodging facilities that used to cater to Chinese tourists have shifted their attention to domestic travelers.

Domestic travelers, especially families, account for 90 percent of our clientele, while tourists from Japan, South Korea, China and other nations make up the remaining 10 percent.

The strategy adjustment means an increase in supply. Some of our competitors are engaging in cutthroat competition.

Although the economic fundamentals look healthy, the total number of inbound tourists has stagnated according to government statistics.

Hualien’s hotels fail to benefit from a spike in tourists from South Korea or Southeast Asian nations because they tend to make one-day trips to Hualien.

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