Thu, Dec 13, 2018 - Page 12 News List

Kaohsiung tourism booms after Han’s win

HEATHY DEMAND:A communication official said there has been an increase in interest from overseas travel agencies, while a taxi driver said business has grown by about 10%

By Crystal Hsu  /  Staff reporter, in Kaohsiung

Tourism-related businesses in Kaohsiung seem to have benefited from Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Mayor Han Kuo-yu’s (韓國瑜) meteoric rise in popularity, but it remains to be seen if the “Han tide” can translate into sustainable, long-term gains.

Tourist attractions, hotels and taxis have seen a double-digit pickup in business since Han’s landslide victory on Nov. 24 and are bracing for stronger sales close to his inauguration on Dec. 25.

Han, 61, a former legislator from New Taipei City and a political outcast for more than a decade, has taken Taiwan by storm with his straightforward slogans and has promised to build Kaohsiung into the nation’s richest municipality.

He said he plans to achieve the goal by selling local produce abroad, and attracting businesses and tourists to the port city, so that everyone could profit and young people no longer have to seek jobs elsewhere.

The Love River’s boat operators said they have seen a sudden boost in demand for rides following Han’s election.

Operators used to offer the 30-minute ride along the canal in the evening, but have extended the service to the afternoon to accommodate people who have come from different parts of Taiwan and overseas.

The 12km river is at the heart of Han’s “love industry,” which he pledged to develop while he was campaigning. The area is to feature a Ferris wheel, marriage counseling offices, gift shops, motels and restaurants, and other businesses.

Because of these promises, Han is to board a Love Boat at Kaohsiung Port Warehouse No. 2 to attend his inauguration.

Boat operators said they are ready for the event.

Ambassador Hotel Kaohsiung (國賓飯店) said that all of its guestrooms are sold out this month thanks to its location near the river and the government’s travel subsidy for southern and eastern Taiwan.

The nearby 85 Sky Tower Hotel (君鴻酒店) also reported healthy accommodation demand for Christmas and the new year.

“We’ve seen a pickup in interest from travel agencies abroad, but it is hard to tell if this has to do with the election results,” a tour communication official said, declining to be named.

Lin Chun-teh (林俊德), 52, a taxi driver and a substitute physical education teacher, said his income has improved by 10 percent, but added that he hopes to gain a regular position at an elementary school.

A lack of openings in his hometown has meant that, for three years, he had to work at a school in Kinmen County, Lin said.

“I hope the authorities in Kaohsiung assign more importance to physical education, so that I do not have to drive a taxi for a living,” Lin said.

Thirty hotels and lodges are seeking to exit the Kaohsiung market, property brokers said, adding that the field is becoming increasingly crowded, while the number of tourists is declining.

Hotel R Kaohsiung (皇家尊龍大酒店) told local media that it hopes the improving sentiment will encourage potential buyers.

The hotel is asking for NT$880 million (US$28.5 million), down from NT$1.1 billion a few years ago.

Improved sentiment alone cannot turn the industry around, other hotels said.

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