The Tourism Bureau expects 7 million people to visit this year’s Taiwan Lantern Festival in Miaoli County, which is scheduled to open next Thursday.
Hosted by the bureau, the annual festival has also drawn much international attention after the Discovery Channel recently introduced it as one of its Fantastic Festivals of the World.
The same episode also presented other events around the nation that are happening at about the same time, including the Sky Lantern Festival in Pingsi, New Taipei City (新北市), the Bombing Han Dan Festival in Taitung County and the Beehive Firecracker Festival in Greater Tainan.
Each county takes a turn to host the Taiwan Lantern Festival. Last year, the festival was held in Chiayi County.
Aside from Taiwanese tourists, Tourism Bureau Director-General Janice Lai (賴瑟珍) said many international tourists are planning to attend the festival this year.
“Some tour groups from Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea and China, as well Southeast Asian countries, have included a trip to the Taiwan Lantern Festival as part of their tours,” she said yesterday, adding that the event could draw more than 10,000 international visitors.
Unlike previous festivals where the organizers would give away handheld lanterns free of charge to children, the organizer this year — the Miaoli County Government — has set a new policy this year that people can only get a handheld lantern after spending at least NT$1,000 shopping in Miaoli County.
Miaoli County Commissioner Liu Cheng-hung (劉政鴻) said the county is, however, planning to give free handheld lanterns to children from single-parent or low-income families.
Liu defended the county’s decision, saying that the new policy is meant to encourage consumption. However, commenting on such a break from tradition, Lai said the bureau would continue to communicate with the Miaoli County Government over the issue.
“The county made 400,000 handheld lanterns at its own expense, but we hope that it will consider public opinion and adjust its policy accordingly,” Lai said.
Meanwhile, the Taiwan Railway Administration (TRA) said yesterday that it would add 188 additional train services to its schedule to accomodate people wishing to visit the festival.
The venue is Jhunan Sports Park, which is about a 15-minute walk from the TRA station in Jhunan Township.
The TRA is to raise the capacity at Zhunan Station, which connects with the mountain and coast lines on the western rail system, so that visitors can more easily reach the festival venue, which is located about 1km from the station, officials said.
Additional reporting by CNA