Low-cost airlines threaten the nation’s tourism industry by luring Taiwanese abroad with cheap tickets, making it more important than ever for the government to attract more foreign visitors, experts said.
Taiwan lacks internationally famous attractions like Disneyland, making it hard to pull in families from Europe and the US with just the National Palace Museum or food, Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research vice president Wang Jiann-chyuan (王健全) said.
A government plan to promote performances by Cloud Gate Dance Theatre (雲門舞集) or Ming Hwa Yuan Taiwanese Opera Company (明華園) could help the cultural industry, while upping the quality of and income from tour groups, Wang said.
His recommendations came after the 9 millionth visitor of the year arrived on Tuesday last week.
The Tourism Bureau is optimistic the number could reach 9.5 million by the end of this year and is confident arrivals will hit 10 million next year.
It also forecast that revenues from tourism could reach NT$380 billion (US$12.22 billion) this year.
However, travel from northern Taiwan to Hualien and Taitung counties can be more expensive than low-cost flights to some countries in Southeast Asia, meaning more Taiwanese could be taking money abroad than foreign guests bring into the country, Providence University associate professor Huang Cheng-tsung (黃正聰) said.
According to bureau statistics, more than 90 percent of the nation’s visitors this year have been from Asia. Arrivals from South Korea grew by 61 percent from last year, while arrivals from China are up 38 percent, Hong Kong and Macau 18 percent, Japan 17 percent and Malaysia 16 percent.
Tayih Landis Hotel Tainan president Yen Hsin-yi (嚴心誼) said Taiwan’s attractions lack overall planning and marketing.
He said authorities should put resources into training tour guides, because “good storytelling is always the best marketing.”
He said that after Hou Hsiao-hsien’s (侯孝賢) film A City of Sadness won a swag of awards, the township where the film was shot — Jiufen (九份), in what is now New Taipei City — many pedestrian shopping areas around the country duplicated the shops and services offered in Jiufen.
Huang said that while Taiwan does not have China’s magnificent landscapes, it does feature a diversity of natural scenery from the sea to mountains, each with their own distinct cultural characteristics that should be promoted.
Taiwan’s hot springs have also been praised as being on par with those in Japan.
Hot Spring Tourism Association Taiwan president Chang Jung-nan (張榮南) said that Taiwan has many kinds of hot springs which are easily accessible, such as one in Yilan County’s Jiaosi Township (礁溪), which is next to the train station.
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