New tactics needed to better night markets

By Wang Fu Kai 王福闓  / 

Tue, May 15, 2018 - Page 8

Many people say that they no longer find Taiwan’s night markets very attractive, but this did not happen overnight.

The influence of government policies, business operators and developing trends have gradually turned tourist night markets, which were once so popular that even people from China visited them, have become mere clones of each other. This in turn has caused the support of customers to plummet.

There is a lack of other attractions with sufficient substance and potential profitability to make up for decreased Chinese tourism numbers, despite Southeast Asian tourism setting new records.

As even Taiwanese no longer feel that night markets in other cities or counties are exciting or fresh, how could they attract foreign tourists?

Night markets have become boring over the past few years for five reasons:

First, there are too many chain stores, which has caused many night markets to have the same repetitive look.

Second, the roads are blocked by chaotic parking and movement of vehicles and people, in addition to illegal stall operators

Third, dishonest vendors have destroyed consumer trust.

Fourth, there are no additional tourist attractions, as relying on the night market alone is not a sufficient draw.

Lastly, there is a lack of appropriate tourist policies and understanding of market differentiation.

For example, some drink brands, stinky tofu brands and general stores are fixtures at all major night markets, which makes visitors feel that all night markets are the same.

As for traffic and movement, the parking situation is chaotic around some night markets, with cars parked everywhere, while conflicts erupt between tourists as the roads are blocked by visitors lining up at stalls.

It also goes without saying that no one wants to be cheated by fruit and luwei (滷味, soy sauce-marinated snack food) vendors who often appear in media reports.

The popular Fengjia (逢甲) market in Taichung’s Xitun District (西屯) is gradually losing its appeal, because the scenic spots are scattered around the city.

In Taipei, the Tonghua (通化), Raohe (饒河) and Shilin (士林) night markets have also become increasingly similar to each other over the past few years in the absence of a tourism policy to promote these markets either through integrated marketing or through marketing that highlights their differences.

There are many night markets nationwide, and they have been used as a symbol representing the Taiwanese brand in international marketing.

However, from a policy perspective, this requires taking into consideration the unique factors and touristic value of these night markets, as well as communicating directly with the markets to differentiate their business approaches and branding.

This is the only way to pique the interest of tourists, both domestic and foreign.

Wang Fu Kai is president of the Chinese Integrated Marketing Communications Association.