Taking it easy, taking it slow

As Taiwan’s population ages, tour operators are beginning to offer vacation packages that focus on the needs of the elderly

By Jason Pan  /  Staff reporter

Mon, May 20, 2013 - Page 12

The domestic tourism market is trying to keep abreast of ever-changing tastes and shifting worldwide trends and as Taiwan’s population ages, tour operators have begun to turn their attention to the needs of senior citizens.

“Due to medical progress in recent decades, older folks are still in relatively good health after retirement and want to travel. Some travel with their families and kids. Others travel with friends of their own age group,” said Liao Yuan-lung (廖源隆), director of the Siraya National Scenic Area (SNSA, 西拉雅國家風景區).

“We are just now getting ready for the onset of what will be a burgeoning market — tourism catering to seniors. Right now their needs are seldom considered when planning tourism facilities and services,” he said.

Easy pace

For 67-year-old television and theater actor Tao Chuan-cheng (陶傳正) and his wife, a holiday to SNSA is more than just getting away.

“A leisure trip to the Siraya countryside rekindles the memory of living a rural existence. And kids can learn what it was like to live in a village in the past,” Tao said.

“Walking around and enjoying the outdoors keeps the body active and in good health,” he added.

Like many tourist hotspots in Taiwan, the SNSA has been rolling out leisure travel packages. These tours emphasize a slow pace, relaxation, walking, enjoying nature and dining on local produce — while getting to know the visiting area’s cultural and historic landscape. These activities are different from the fast-paced tour groups which seek to cover as much distance as possible in a day.

The SNSA has also upgraded its facilities — washrooms, parking lots, lodging accommodation for barrier-free and wheelchair access — and put up more visibly prominent direction signs that are senior-friendly.

The Bucolic south

The SNSA, located in southern Taiwan, is a bucolic countryside strewn with forests, hills, orchards, farming villages and cultural sites.

It covers the whole or parts of 15 townships of Greater Tainan and Chiayi, and is jointly administered by the nation’s Tourism Bureau and local governments, at a rigor nearly on par with that of Taiwan’s national parks.

What’s unique about SNSA are the five major dams and reservoirs located within the area’s borders, including the Wushantou Reservoir (烏山頭水庫), known also as Coral Lake (珊瑚潭), and the Hutoupi Reservoir (虎頭埤水庫).

One recommendation is to take a leisurely boat cruise on one of these five artificial lakes. A cruise requires prior appointment with the reservoir management office, but is definitely worth the effort and the small expense.

Other recommended tourist attractions at this regional-level scenic park include Guanziling Hot Spring (關子嶺溫泉), Hatta Yoichi Memorial Park (八田與一紀念園區), Dapu Park district (大埔風景區) and Green Valley Siraya (綠谷西拉雅).

In Tainan townships within SNSA, seasoned visitors already know of the healthy food and local delicacies such as organic farm vegetables, fresh bamboo shoots, mushrooms and yams, which are among the area’s culinary attractions. Mango fruit or dishes cooked with mango are common in Nanhua (南化) and Sinhua (新化) districts. There is also lotus root in Baihe (白河), steamed fish hotpot in Tapu (大埔), coffee beans in Dongshan (東山) and “roast chicken in a pot” (甕仔雞) at Guanziling.

For more information about the tour packages in Chinese, English and Japanese, please visit: www.siraya-nsa.gov.tw