Thu, Feb 19, 2009 - Page 2 News List

Tourism operators seek extension to lantern festival

STAFF WRITER, WITH CNA

Tourism operators asked Ilan County Commissioner Lu Guo-hua (呂國華) yesterday to extend the Taiwan Lantern Festival in Ilan City, which is scheduled to end on Sunday.

Chang Ching-lai (張清來), an executive member of the Taiwan Leisure Farming Development Association, along with several representatives of recreational farming and lodging businesses, paid a call on Lu earlier in the day and requested the extension, saying the event had drawn many visitors and created trade opportunities.

Chang said tourism in Ilan usually drops to a “super-low” level after the Lunar New Year festival. However, he said, thanks to the Taiwan Lantern Festival, which was held in Ilan this year for the first time, the occupancy rate at his hotel had increased five-fold compared with the same period last year.

He said the 10-plus foreign tour groups from Hong Kong and Singapore staying at his hotel all referred to the lantern festival, which began on Feb. 9, as “a must see.”

“Several foreign tourists have even said they wished their tour schedule allowed them more hours at the festival,” Chang said.

In response to the request, Lu said that an extension to the festival would involve negotiating the many contracts that the organizers signed with performing groups. However, if this issue could be worked out and the Ministry of Transportation and Communications agreed to the proposal, he would be delighted to see the event prolonged, the county commissioner said.

The Taiwan Lantern Festival, organized by the Tourism Bureau and the Ilan County Government, has attracted tens of thousands of visitors every day since it opened.

Because of the large number of people traveling to Ilan City for the festival, most major roads between the city and the surrounding townships have been frequently congested, with the worst traffic conditions occurring over the last two weekends.

The Toucheng toll station on the Taipei-Ilan Freeway recorded some 74,000 vehicles on the highway on Valentine’s Day.

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