Earlier this month, media reports said that Japan is to charge foreign travelers a tourism fee of ￥1,000 (US$9.30) when departing the country and that the Japanese government expects to generate more than ￥40 billion in revenue each year this way.
However, the Taipei Association of Travel Agents said that the departure tax is unlikely to deter Taiwanese from traveling to Japan given its popularity.
Why are Taiwanese so fond of visiting Japan? Apart from the beautiful scenery during the four very distinct seasons and the fascination with Japanese anime culture among young people, other reasons are a well-developed public transportation system, clear travel information, the Japanese’s politeness, neat and orderly streets, excellent public order, transparent pricing and clean sanitary facilities.
Although prices are higher than in many other countries, many Taiwanese still make multiple trips to Japan each year.
Taiwan and Japan are both island nations and the Taiwanese are as diligent and hardworking as the Japanese, but Japan has long been a major economic power, while Taiwan is unable to break through its economic bottlenecks.
The average salary for young Taiwanese has even fallen to the levels of many years ago, while the government is forced to repeatedly call on industries to give employees pay raises. Apart from the ascent of neighboring China and the outflow of Taiwanese businesses, has Taiwan made a serious attempt to discover its own strengths and develop its own characteristics? This is a question that deserves some serious debate.
Taiwan’s strengths are its wonderful mountains, seas and sunshine, plentiful fruits and various other delicacies, its cultural and ethnic diversity, as well as its flora and ecological scenery.
As the 2020 Tokyo Olympics approach, the Japanese government has set a goal to attract 40 million foreign visitors that year. As a neighbor of Japan, will Taiwan seize this opportunity to promote its scenic spots to tourists visiting Japan so that they could drop by to enjoy the great food and scenery of Formosa?
Transportation is crucial in enabling foreign travelers to travel around freely, but transportation in Taiwan is often criticized, especially in less accessible rural areas.
If the government could expand alternative transportation systems, such as waterways and streetcars, the number of motorcycles would drop sharply. Surely this would be a good way to reduce the number of traffic accidents involving motorcycles.
In addition, if we could have streetcars shuttling between Pingtung City and Kenting (墾丁), passengers could enjoy the views along the ride and avoid traffic jams on holidays. The flexibility of streetcars would be useful in an aging society with a low birthrate, because carriages can be added or removed to cope with rising or falling demand. They are not only safe, but also environmentally friendly.
There have been media reports that unreasonably priced food in several scenic spots has affected tourism, but such cases are few. If Taiwan really wants to turn into a tourist destination, the whole public needs to take action, including the media, which should do more to sell the kind and enthusiastic side of Taiwanese.
The government should also rearrange and reorganize transportation systems and make our streets neat and tidy. If all that could be done, foreign tourists would not complain even if Taiwan followed Japan’s example and levied a tourism fee some day.
Jane Ywe-hwan is an associate professor in the Department of Applied Japanese at National Pingtung University.
Translated by Eddy Chang
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