Sun, Sep 18, 2005 - Page 18 News List

Welcoming the world to the one and only Taiwan

Tourism Bureau Director-General Hsu Wen-sheng places confidence in the uniqueness of Taiwan to attract millions of visitors

By Meredith Dodge  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taiwan has a tourism deficit. This year, 8 million Taiwanese will go abroad while only 3 million foreign nationals will visit Taiwan. So how can Taiwan compete for foreign travelers when so many local travelers clearly just want to get off the island?

"We don't have to be the number one, we just have to be the only one," Taiwan Tourism Bureau Director-General Hsu Wen-sheng (許文聖) said.

Hsu, who took over from former Director-General Su Cherng-tyan (蘇成田) this April, has spent 30 years -- his entire career -- in the service of tourism in Taiwan. As a student at National Taiwan University's School of Forestry and Resource Conservation, he developed a passion for the nation's natural beauty. To this day, his favorite spot in all of Taiwan is Xitou (溪頭) in Nantou County (南投).

"I used to go there with my classmates to do experiments for school. The forest there is so beautiful," Hsu said. He lamented the damage that was done by landslides in the 921 earthquake, but noted the forest is gradually recovering.

Hsu's first job after graduating from NTU with a master's degree in 1975 was in the technical services division at the Tourism Bureau, where he focused on the planning, development and management of the nation's tourist infrastructure. While working in this post he was sent to Seattle to study outdoor recreation management at the University of Washington for six months. Hsu said he studied harder in Seattle than he ever had before and learned everything he needed to know about large-scale planning.

After eight years in the technical services division (four as the section chief), the Tourism Bureau sent Hsu to the northeast coast as director of the scenic area office there.

"I was the founding director of Taiwan's first scenic area office. Before that there were no (designated) scenic areas," Hsu said.

Now there are 12 national scenic areas in Taiwan. But along with the honor of setting up the first came the burden of figuring out how to set a precedent.

"We had to start from scratch, but after six years of building and development we got to the point where other scenic areas could be created using the northeast coast as a model," Hsu said. "I felt quite a sense of achievement."

Hsu's achievements would soon be put to the test. A turning point for Taiwan's tourism

industry, and for Hsu's career, came in August, 1990, when a sightseeing boat capsized on Sun Moon Lake, killing 57 tourists from Taiwan and abroad.

The deaths of the passengers, Shell employees taking part in a company outing, confronted the tourist industry with questions as to how such a tragedy could occur and prompted the then-director of Taiwan Provincial Government Tourism Bureau to step down. Hsu, who was serving as a deputy director, got the nod from then-governor Lien Chan to take over.

Hsu felt the weight of responsibility as he took the helm of the provincial branch of the Tourism Bureau (a body that no longer exists today).

"I felt there was so much that had to be done to improve local tourism management," Hsu said. "Safety had to be the first priority."

After three decades with Hsu at the helm of the Tourism Bureau things have come a long way.

"In the past, we used to submit a lot of development plans and projects that had huge budgets and would cost the government a lot of money. But now, Taiwan has more or less enough infrastructure in all of the scenic areas -- I don't think we need more development. We have to start emphasizing promotion and marketing," Hsu said.

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