Taiwan has lately enjoyed favorable reviews at international media outlets, including earning a spot on the New York Times’ “52 Places to Go in 2014” list and even beating hot spots in China.
Coordinated efforts between the public and private sectors have boosted tourism, with the number of inbound tourists hitting a new high last year, thanks mostly to arrivals from China, official statistics show.
Despite the cause for celebration, there has been no obvious growth in visitors from Europe and the Americas, Hotel Royal Group chief executive Winston Shen (沈方正) said.
The 8 million overseas visitors last year included 2.8 million from China, 502,446 from the Americas (mostly from the US) and 223,062 from Europe, statistics show.
Taiwan cannot depend solely on Chinese tourists to fuel growth in the tourism industry, Shen said.
The government needs to work on turning the nation into an international transportation hub to make it “reachable” for long-distance travelers, he said.
Shen also suggested focusing tourism campaigns on three themes — people, culture and lifestyle.
Taiwan’s first attraction should be based on its people, he said.
For example, US travelers might be interested in tours of the hometown of Oscar-winning director Ang Lee (李安) and former Yankees pitcher Wang Chien-ming (王建民) — Greater Tainan.
This could be the basis for promoting tourism in towns and outlying areas, he said.
Second, the nation’s culture could appeal to European tourists who love culture and art, he said.
The government should support overseas performances by troupes such as Cloud Gate Dance Theatre (雲門舞集) and U-Theatre (優人神鼓) to expose European audiences to Taiwanese performers, sparking their interest in where these groups come from and promoting Taiwan as the “image of modern East Asia,” Shen said.
Promoting lifestyles could also be a big attraction, Shen said, adding that specialized tour packages would draw people according to their hobbies and interests.
For example, some British travelers visit for bird-watching, he said.
“Quick and casual sightseeing is no longer enough for most tourists,” Shen said. “The best tourism is a lifestyle.”
Noting that people spend large amounts of money to see the northern lights in Scandinavia, Shen said: “You can’t just stay there for a week only to see the aurora. What travelers really want is the clean, beautiful design style and the lifestyle there.”
A location that showcases a local culture — what people have achieved over centuries — will always win over manufactured tourist attractions, he said.
Instead of a series of landscapes, the “Taiwan image” should be an amalgamation of places, people and culture, he said.
Additional reporting by staff writer