Hollywood actor and comedian Rob Schneider yesterday received the Taiwan Tourism Award for helping to promote the nation as an international travel destination.
The award was granted to travel agencies and organizations both overseas and in Taiwan that contribute to growth in the number of international tourists to Taiwan.
Schneider received the award at the annual Tourism Festival Award Ceremony at the Grand Hotel in Taipei yesterday, along with travel industry representatives from Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Macao, Singapore, Malaysia, the US and Europe.
Schneider, who is known to most Taiwanese for his title role in Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo and its sequel, first came to the nation in 2012 with his wife at the invitation of the Tourism Bureau.
The bureau said the couple visited some of the scenic spots along the northeast coast and tasted Taiwanese tea and cuisine during their trip around the nation.
Schneider volunteered to participate in tourism events promoting Taiwan in the US and to introduce the nation to Americans.
Schneider told reporters that this was his sixth visit to Taiwan.
“I felt really honored to be getting an award from the Taiwan Tourism Bureau. It was great to see the president [Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九)],” Schneider said. “I love the people here. They have a great sense of humor and love their country. They also have the most amazing food in the world.”
The bureau also gave the award to the South Korean TV producer Nah Yun-suk, who produced the popular Korean variety show, Grandpas over Flowers.
The show documented the overseas trips of elderly backpackers, with a few episodes highlighting Taiwanese tourist attractions.
The Tourism Bureau said that the show helped motivate more Koreans to travel to the nation.
The bureau also honored tour guides and leaders by granting them the Outstanding Tourism Industry Professional Award.
Tour guide Lee Guan-huei (李冠輝) has been a tour guide for seven years.
He was recognized for risking his life to protect his clients in a robbery in New Zealand last year.
“The robber was holding a rifle, and at first thought I he was an actor,” Lee said.
“Then he started shooting at the ground and grabbed the bag of one of our clients. I did not know what came over me, but I started chasing the robber and tried to pull him out of his car as he tried to drive away,” he said.
“I did not let go until everybody told me to stop, fearing that I might get injured,” he added.
Another award recipient was Chang Fong-kuen (張鳳坤), who has been a guide for 20 years, specializing in arranging tours to Tibet.