Wed, Jul 27, 2011 - Page 8 News List

Policies on tourism are driven only by money

By Philippe Mckay

The recent expansion of the tourism industry after President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) swept to power in the wake of pan-green voters staying at home is becoming a canary in the mine shaft scenario.

Earlier this year, protests against hotel developments on Aboriginal land in Taitung came to the public’s attention. The reality of the nation’s tourism policy is revealing itself in areas along the Northeast Coast National Scenic Area that are being expropriated.

Government policies and rules ensuring Aboriginal land rights and the preservation of nature have been revealed to be completely useless and not worth the paper they were written on.

The increasing emphasis on tourism reflects the government’s agenda, demonstrating an increased reliance on tourism to maintain economic growth, which in turn achieves political goals.

Government decisionmakers are setting their sights on meeting the needs of the tourism industry, which is increasing the repetition of the mantra that Chinese tourism will be the nation’s savior. However, tourism has negative effects. One needs to only look at Hainan Island in China and Bali in Indonesia, where social ills brought about by the rapid development of the tourism industry are becoming increasingly obvious.

Taipei has traditionally used the rest of the country as its playground and has regularly used its clout as the capital to shape policy to its own agenda. Compounding this is the change of focus of the tourism industry now that its target customer is Chinese.

The nation’s tourism policy is purely about monetary objectives. The idea of developing better relations with China through tourism is unrealistic.

Furthermore, the development of tourism in Taiwan has done little to help Aborigines. A quick look at the history of domestic tourism and how the tourism industry’s previous attempts at development with respect to Aboriginal communities reveals much.

The Aboriginal “parks” constructed to “exhibit” Aboriginal culture to Taiwanese visitors during the past 20 or so years have done little to help these communities. The reality is that the country’s tourism policy has done more to expropriate the cultural features of Aboriginal identity by forcing it to conform, as a product, to its consumers’ expectations rather than ensuring the survival and vivacity of these dynamic cultures.

Policies that protect the environmental, cultural and public good do not really exist in Taiwan. Only legislation that expands the material interests of bureaucrats, politicians and an exclusive group of private interests exists.

The reality of what is happening on the east coast, in regards to policy, is that there will be an increase in political and administrative corruption cases as funds flow in and fatten the pockets of a select few. Legislation for the good of all Taiwanese is now being swept aside as cross-strait “relations” are developing “positively.”

This is not a good sign for Taiwanese society. It definitely makes it hard for the canary.

Philippe McKay is a graduate student at National Sun Yat-sen University.

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