The Ministry of Transportation and Communications yesterday proposed a solution to excess demand for flights to Penghu during the tourist high season.
The outlying island is one of the nation’s most popular tourist attractions. The flight ticket problem had been raised as the ministry last year received complaints from tourists about difficulty in purchasing tickets during the peak period.
Statistics from the Tourism Bureau showed 666,978 tourists visited Penghu last year, about 8 percent more than in 2010.
About 210,000 people had arrived in Penghu between January and May this year, a year-on-year increase of 13 percent.
Chu Kuan-wen (朱冠文), director of the Civil Aeronautics Administration’s air transport division, said that available flight seats have increased by 11 percent since 2008. The average occupancy rate is between 71 and 76 percent.
“The number of available seats has increased since Far Eastern Air Transport resumed operations in July last year, which has helped lower the average aircraft occupancy rate,” she said.
Tourists account for 75 percent of passengers on flights to Penghu, whereas residents account for only 25 percent. Aside from increasing additional flights at peak hours, Chu said travelers should be encouraged to take ferries instead.
The annual average usage rate of ferries is only 20 percent, and the usage rate in July is close to 40 percent.
Travelers heading to Magong Sea Port on Penghu can depart from either Chiayi or Kaohsiung, with travel times of 90 minutes and five hours, respectively.
In comparison, flight times to Magong Airport from Chiayi and Kaohsiung are 30 minutes and 35 minutes, respectively.
Chang Lung-cheng (張隆成), director of the Penghu National Scenic Area Administration, said the bureau would have to come up with creative ways to market the boat trips or prolong the travel season.
“We can talk with the management of Tai Hwa Shi [the shipping service between Magong and Kaohsiung] and see if we can add a boat tour around the Port of Kaohsiung to our tour package,” Chang said.
They could also try selling such tours to newlyweds or those traveling by bicycle, he added.