Thu, Dec 27, 2018 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: Tourism must focus on uniqueness

Since the number of tour groups from China began to decline last year, the government has enacted various measures to prop up the tourism industry, including travel subsidies and promoting the nation in Southeast Asia.

Critics have said that the subsidies are too small, while others have argued that industry operators must change their business model. The government has responded to these criticisms by increasing subsidies, showing that it is taking the issue seriously, but in a puzzling move the Tourism Bureau on Monday said that it was mulling easing regulations to allow more young people into the industry.

Many businesses in southern Taiwan have already folded, citing a lack of Chinese tourists, but maybe the bureau is right to encourage younger players in the market. After all, many of the failed businesses had catered largely to tour groups and the trend now seems to be toward individual travelers. Tour groups often book inexpensive transportation and accommodations, and the members of the groups tend to spend little while in the nation. Yet, many industry operators seem to cling to these groups, unable to adjust to a changing market.

Tour groups can also be problematic, as they have an expedited visa process, which can sometimes be detrimental. The bureau on Wednesday confirmed that 152 Vietnamese tourists were reported missing after they entered the nation through Kaohsiung on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ “Kuan Hung Pilot Project” — an electronic visa program designed to increase visits from quality tour groups from India, Indonesia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos.

The question then is: How can the tourism industry attract more individual travelers, particularly those who will become repeat visitors and act as ambassadors for the “Taiwan” brand? Various responses on Web site Quora to the question “What qualities make a destination attractive to you as a tourist?” indicate that travelers want to see something in a destination that can only be seen in that place.

“Every place has it’s own charm, culture and cuisine, so if a place is offering me an opportunity to experience something I haven’t done before, I would love to go there,” one user wrote.

Another said that when traveling they want to “do something that I can’t do at my home location, eg, riding a camel through the desert in Morocco.”

Taiwanese often tout the nation’s night markets, but even Taipei has much more to offer, such as historical areas like Dihua Street, Dadaocheng (大稻埕) and Mengjia (艋舺); its many temples; and hot springs.

Outside Taipei there are the unique experiences of walking through tea plantations in Alishan (阿里山); cycling through Taroko Gorge (太魯閣峽谷) and picturesque Chihshang Township (池上) in Taitung County; and visiting historical military outposts in Kinmen and Matsu.

The government has promoted these places in its marketing aimed at China, but it has not done nearly as good a job in its marketing elsewhere.

The head of the Taiwan Tourism Bureau in New York in May apologized for content on social media that included misspelled words and grammatical errors in English; its promotion of things like “dirty bread” (髒髒包) and Kavalan whiskey — which one blogger said is “not a reason for somebody to buy a plane ticket to Taiwan”; and its marketing of Jiufen (九份) as inspired by the Japanese animation Spirited Away, which is inaccurate.

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