Miramar Resort Village remains a touchstone for the nature and size of future development in Taitung. For Ho the potential to fortify the local economy is unrivaled.
“We need to talk about confidence,” Ho said. “There are seven hotels of varying size in the pipeline and they are waiting for the Mirimar to open. If it does open then they will press ahead with their plans. This is the confidence I am talking about. Our vision is that if we open we can bring employment opportunities to Taitung. If the Miramar opens — as well as the seven other hotels — they will collectively bring at least 3,200 jobs to the region.”
Further up the coast, Australian Michael O’Neill, 49, a 17-year resident of Taiwan who works as a driftwood craftsman and chicken farmer, says the financial boost the hotel promises is questionable.
“Jobs are cited, but the existing hotels are struggling to fill vacancies. I don’t see how they’ll get the staff without bringing them in from Taipei.”
ENCOURAGE SMALL BUSINESS
O’Neill says that instead of the major hotel model, small businesses should be encouraged to cater for the growing numbers of independent holiday-makers.
“Efforts to bolster ecotourism through small business courses for local residents would do far more to enhance Taitung’s economic development than the building of several large hotels … There are more and more backpackers every day and they are not here because its overdeveloped. They’re here because it is still beautiful. Once the hotel is open, the beauty, the uniqueness of that space is gone.”
The TEIA’s Da Yuang echoes the sentiment. “If Taitung goes in the same direction as Kenting with lots of tourists on big buses it will push some people away such as backpackers … who come for the natural environment.”
The campaigner remains defiant. “The local government has said [the hotel] can open but we will still fight it through legal channels and through campaigning. We will tell people not to stay at the hotel and why, and let them know that this is wrong.”
Inside the hotel’s half-finished lobby a handful of security guards meander about nonchalantly — footprints mark their way through a thick layer of dust that covers nearly everything within the cavernous space. Hundreds of toilets are stacked in a corner and there is a heavy, eery-feeling as the Taitung sunshine struggles to break through the vast sand and sea-salt encrusted windows. There is something of the Mary Celeste about the place — a space very much in limbo.
For all the talk of picture-perfect vacations for holiday-making newlyweds and joyous beachside breaks for sports-loving tourists, the Miramar Resort Village does not exude an atmosphere of happiness. The on-going threat of further legal complications and a nationwide boycott in the offing only seems to add to the woes of this mothballed giant. It may be here that the future of Taitung is decided, but right now it feels very much trapped in the past.