Mon, Jul 27, 2015 - Page 8

Tourism balancing act

Whilst the concerns of Huang Tien-lin (黃天麟) about making Taiwan’s economy too dependent upon Chinese tourists are valid (“Is Taiwan the Greece of East Asia?” July 24, page 8), I do not agree that a tourism-based economy is, per se, necessarily weak or disadvantageous. What is required is a balance between economic sectors so that dependencies on any one industry, or relations with any one country, are avoided.

The problem of dependency lies not just with the government; it is also a cultural one. Too many businesses in Taiwan still operate on the philosophy of following the “path of least resistance” — they seek the easiest, and not the most sustainable or creative, route to profit. Many business leaders only think in the short term and are extremely risk-averse, and as such there are too many opportunists and not enough long-term investors. The tourism sector in Taiwan is filled with people looking to gather the crumbs left after the tour operators in Hong Kong and China have siphoned off most of the profit.

Furthermore, a lot of money is spent at home and abroad on promoting Taiwan as a tourist destination, but not nearly enough is spent on upgrading the infrastructure to cope with the negative economic, environmental and social externalities of an increased volume of visitors. Yet Taiwan could easily be one of the leading tourist destinations in the world. Aside from the attraction of being a democratic country where you will not be arrested for watching a documentary in your hotel room, Taiwan boasts some of the world’s most diverse landscapes and ecological habitats; whose natural features make it a world-class location for activities such as rowing, cycling, diving, paragliding, yachting, hiking, motorcycling, surfing, and water sports such as rafting and wind surfing.

For example, the cross-country highways, Nos. 7, 8 14 and 20, could also serve as world-class cycling stages, as would the historic highway No. 3 from Taipei to Pingdong. Once elevated, the TRA line in Taichung from Fengyuan to Wuri stations would provide another potentially excellent cycling path along the route of the old track at ground level, something that local businesses could integrate with.

Taiwan also has thousands of stunningly beautiful hiking trails, many of which need repair and upgrading. Beaches could be cleaned and public rest, shower and toilet facilities provided. There are also hundreds of historical sites that could be renovated and restored, but this requires recognizing them as assets rather than uncomfortable reminders of a past many would prefer to forget. A positive example would be the popular reopening of the Lin Department Store in Tainan, standing in stark contrast with the wonton and criminal destruction of pottery heritage in Houlong Township (後龍) by disgraced former KMT Miaoli County commissioner Liu Cheng-hung (劉政鴻) and his accomplice, former International Culture and Tourism Bureau head Lin Chen-feng (林振豐).

Furthermore, Taiwan could promote itself as a low carbon, clean environment by converting all farming to 100 percent organic; instituting reed-bed technology to clean effluence rather than pump it out to sea; rigorously and consistently eradicating the shark fin trade and import of endangered species or products derived from them; providing thousands of permanent jobs cleaning and maintaining beaches and roadsides; investing in solar technology solutions, which can power taxis, buses, and coaches; and instituting a viable and carefully planned process for achieving 100 percent sustainable energy with the objective of closing down nuclear and coal-fired power plants sooner rather than later.

What all these things require is a government with vision, and a passionate and infectious belief in that vision. Also required is for Taiwanese to try to understand why not only Chinese, but other foreigners too, might want to visit this country and what kind of environment, service, and infrastructure will have them encouraging their friends and family to visit too.

Taiwan could be a tourist haven in the West Pacific as well as one of the world’s most convenient transit hubs, but it requires a government brave enough to put protecting and sustainably developing the environment, and not semiconductor chips or Chinese tourists, at the center of an economic revitalization program. It would be a “Green Decade” policy to transform Taiwan into a Pacific Eden that everyone could support.

Ben Goren


A more delicious Taiwan

Finally a discussion about chili peppers in Taiwan! “Turn up the heat” (July 25, page 12) offered readers some understanding of the red chili’s availability in the nation and its use in various dishes such as Hainan chicken. And beyond the great taste of chilies, the health benefits! I have to be honest and say that as a Los Angeles native who misses the dozens of chilies to be found in Mexican markets in LA, and I mean dozens of chilies, this article at least highlights several common chilies to be found in Taiwan. It is a start to a more delicious Taiwan. I am hungry just thinking about it!

Dave Hall