Wed, Feb 15, 2017 - Page 4 News List

MOTC to promote ecotourism tours

KEY WORD:A Tourism Bureau official said the term must be defined to avoid confusing travelers, and road size and villages’ visitor capacity must be taken into account

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

The Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) is promoting ecotourism as a way to attract more international visitors as Chinese tourist numbers continue to decline.

Minister of Transportation and Communications Hochen Tan (賀陳旦) announced the plan as he took reporters on an ecotour in Yilan County on Monday.

The WTO has declared this year as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, with the hope that more nations can devote themselves to the development of ecotourism, Hochen said.

Ecotourism is an important option for Taiwan, particularly now that it is facing a decline in the number of Chinese tourists, he said.

There has been a large increase in tourists from Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia in recent years, but it is not easy for such travelers to visit farming villages, he said.

Taiwan’s agricultural output may not be as high as those of other sectors of the economy, but time spent at a farming village would bring a sense of freshness to travelers from Hong Kong and Southeast Asia, Hochen said.

“The nation’s tourism policy was originally designed to attract Taiwanese expatriates abroad. It gradually evolved to attract tour groups, such as Chinese groups. However, these kinds of tours focused on specific regions and narrowed the choices available to tourists, which in turn disrespects or even destroys the environment,” he said.

The ecotour to Yilan took reporters to a farm where visitors can pick organic baby corn and green onions and then make green onion cakes themselves.

The group also visited Happy Station, a new attraction near Yilan Railway Station that features installations by famed Taiwanese illustrator Liao Fubin (廖福彬), better known as Jimmy (幾米).

The Tourism Bureau said it is developing theme tours focusing on fireflies, eagles, milkweed butterflies and whales, as well as visits to Aboriginal villages.

The bureau will host a meeting this week with officials from the councils of agriculture and veterans affairs, the ministries of the interior and education and the Environmental Protection Administration to draw up a list of potential places for ecotourism development, bureau Deputy Director-General Chang Shi-chung (張錫聰) said.

The term “ecotourism” must be clearly defined to avoid causing confusion, he said.

Ecotours are to be categorized in terms of the level and tourist capacity, adding some tours would still have to be organized by travel agencies to bring independent travelers together, he said.

“Roads in some places are quite narrow, and travel agencies have to arrange medium-size buses to transport their clients. Some farming villages are small and cannot handle large groups of travelers. You cannot have quality ecotours if you do not control influx of tourists,” Chang said.

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