Those who have lived in Taiwan long enough are no strangers to the mentality of “getting it while you can.”
Government-approved promotional tools that are rip-offs of foreign artists’ works and kitschy films aimed at making a quick buck are just some products of this type that society has been fed.
Behind this mentality lies a dangerous message: “Why would I put effort into something when I know I can get faster results the quick and easy way?”
And yet, when we see others achieving great success, we tend to say: “They did it, so why can’t I?”
This habitual form of self-doubt was depicted in a satirical cartoon by artist Nagee on Facebook. The cartoon showed Taiwanese criticizing the nation’s movie industry over its inability to make an international blockbuster after seeing South Korean thriller Train to Busan sweep box offices nationwide.
A trip taken by eight pan-blue mayors and county commissioners to Beijing to salvage the tourism industry in their administrative districts is another example of this mentality.
The officials met with Taiwan Affairs Office Minister Zhang Zhijun (張志軍), who promised them opportunities to promote packaged tours and produce in China, cultural exchanges, private-sector investment, exchange students and collaborations at local-government levels — everything Beijing has suspended since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) took office.
Zhang told a news conference that cross-strait relations can only move forward with the so-called “1992 consensus” as the foundation for exchanges.
Responding to media queries about what China’s policies on other Taiwanese cities and counties were, Zhang said: “They should think about why they cannot come” to Beijing.
The trip drew heavy fire from pan-green politicians who accused the delegation of selling out and being “slaves” to China.
Was the public censure misgiven? Is the local tourism industry so dire that there was nothing they could have done except ask China to save the industry from bankruptcy?
The answer becomes obvious when one looks at what the Taipei City Government has been doing to promote tourism over the past few months.
In July, Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) vowed at an Eid al-Fitr event at the Taipei Grand Mosque to make Taipei a “Muslim-friendly” city by boosting the number of certified halal restaurants and developing tourism policies aimed at attracting Muslims.
That pledge was squarely backed by Taipei Department of Tourism and Information Commissioner Chien Yu-yen (簡余晏), who last month organized a sightseeing tour to coincide with Malindo Air’s launch of its Kuala Lumpur-Taipei route. Chien invited reporters from 10 Malaysian media outlets to take part in the tour, which took them to several tourist spots where they were able to gain an insight into Taiwan’s history, culture and cuisine.
The department teamed up with EVA Air and 21 Japanese travel agencies last month to promote affordable packaged tours to Taipei and distributed food coupons at this year’s JATA Tourism Expo Japan in Tokyo.
The agency plans to buy double-decker tour buses for city tours by the end of this year and has secured NT$43 million (US$1.37 million) in subsidies from the Directorate-General of Highways.
Not that the department’s efforts would make a world of difference to Taipei’s tourism in the short term, but the department has set an example of how to overcome an economic downturn without sacrificing self-determination and bowing to Beijing.
With the exception of Hsinchu County, all cities and counties that sent delegations to Beijing have tourism agencies. Perhaps it is time that they start doing something to bolster tourism instead of “getting it while they can,” lest one day, there is nothing left.
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