Tue, Sep 10, 2019 - Page 13 News List

Expats play key role in boosting Taiwan’s tourism

Locally-based, foreign-born tourism professionals and entrepreneurs are convinced of Taiwan’s appeal — even if official efforts to promote it are often flat-footed

By Steven Crook  /  Contributing reporter

Pemberton adds that being native English speakers is a big plus because their clients feel more comfortable on hikes putting their safety in the hands of people they’re able to communicate with easily.

The same entrepreneur argues that a greater Western presence would be good for the tourism sector. “An injection of ideas about how to run tours that would interest foreigners would go a long way. Local companies offer daytrips to Taroko Gorge from Taipei, and there’s just no way a trip like that can be done with any level of quality. We’d spend a minimum of two days and two nights. Less than that and it’s not worth going!”

Simon Foster’s situation is different to that of Hevern, Pemberton and Robbins. As destinations managers at the Taiwan office of Grasshopper Adventures, he and his wife, Tot — both Britons — organize fully-guided and self-guided bike tours for a Bangkok-headquartered company that now operates in 14 countries in Asia.

“We’re well-received and treated fairly in Taiwan. Generally speaking, processes are clearly laid out — increasingly in English — easy to follow, and reasonably transparent,” says Simon Foster.

While praising “the geographic and cultural diversity of this beautiful island,” he laments how little known Taiwan’s attractions are in the wider world.

“When I tell people we have East Asia’s highest mountains, hot springs, thousands of temples, the world’s deepest marble gorge, indigenous tribal culture, rugged Pacific beaches and some of the world’s best food and cycling, they often look incredulous. One of the main challenges is overcoming this knowledge gap which continues to limit tourist numbers.”

Pemberton thinks the Tourism Bureau could do a better job of promoting Taiwan at the international level.

“I would love for them to reach out to companies like ours so that we could assist in building campaigns. We know what appeals to Westerners. Also, we need to continue to internationalize the island. That said, there’s nothing wrong with Taiwanese people. We’ve had great reviews on Tripadvisor, but I always say these reviews are actually reviews of Taiwan. Taiwan is a five-star destination because of the people and their warmth.”

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