Several news outlets, as well as travel agencies, have been complaining about the fall in the number of Chinese tourists since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) took office, blaming the decline on her refusal to recognize the so-called “1992 consensus.” However, the development is not bad for Taiwan’s tourism industry.
According to official figures released last week by the Tourism Bureau, the number of Chinese tourists declined by 15 percent in May and last month compared with the same period last year, while at some popular destinations for Chinese tourists, such as Sun Moon Lake in Nantou County, the decline has been as high as 30 percent, causing tourism-related businesses and tour operators to panic.
After former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) took office in 2008, he focused his tourism policy on the number of Chinese tourists. The only thing Ma cared about was the numbers.
He did not care about the quality of travel for tourists, the capacity of Taiwan to host visitors, or whether overcrowded museums and tourist attractions created problems for visitors from other nations or even locals.
Even as Ma bragged about the economic benefits of hosting Chinese tourists, many local businesses involved in tourism said that Chinese tour groups only used services provided by businesses with Chinese investments and locals rarely made any money from them.
While the statistics look bad for Sun Moon Lake, businesses such as souvenir shops and restaurants said they have been making more money, since local and foreign visitors are now more willing to go to the scenic area because it is less crowded, and they actually spend money at local establishments.
The overwhelming number of tourists in the past exceeded Taiwan’s accommodation capacity and harmed the environment, which might be the most important asset of Taiwan’s nature tourism, as numerous hotels and resorts cropped up in the mountains, on the coasts and at other ecologically sensitive areas, while the popularity of coral accessories among Chinese tourists continues to threaten the marine ecosystem.
The overwhelming number of Chinese tourists has also caused complaints from locals.
Some media outlets and travel agencies suggested Taiwanese should be more “open-minded,” saying no one would ever complain about having too many tourists.
However, Taiwanese might not be the only ones who do so.
For instance, responding to protests from locals, the Spanish government has begun levying an additional tax on foreign tourists, hoping to reduce their numbers so that Spanish life would not be disrupted, while in the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, visitors are required to pay a “minimum package” fee of US$200 or US$250 per person per night depending on the month of visit, with an additional fee of US$65, and the nation only accepts up to 50,000 tourists per year.
With the number of Chinese tourists on the decline, it is time for Taiwan to rethink its tourism strategy, and come up with a solution that would be more suitable for a small island nation that helps maintain the quality of travel for visitors and the quality of life for locals.
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