Local businesses in Pingtung County’s Kenting (墾丁) this week discussed plans to win back domestic and international tourists by reducing the number of street vendors who they said clogged up local streets, in a series of meetings with police and the agencies in charge of sanitation and public roads.
The decline in tourists heading to Kenting, popular for its beaches and concerts, has raised concerns about the effect on the local economy, after the government released statistics showing only 2.11 million people visited Kenting in the first six months of the year — a fall of 1.32 million from the same period last year.
The numbers sparked lively public discussions, with many people arguing that Kenting has lost its charm and become too commercialized.
An influx of Chinese visitors in the past decade led to a tourism boom and the opening of many new businesses, but a subsequent sharp drop in Chinese tourists has seen many of these businesses struggle to survive.
Some commenters said food, accommodation and activities in Kenting had become too costly, while others complained about chaos, with unlicensed food stalls and garbage scattered everywhere.
The debate has spilled onto online forums, where many commenters appear to agree that “Kenting has become too expensive, too messy, and filled with too much trash.”
“Businesses in Kenting have only themselves to blame by being greedy and jacking up prices,” one commenter wrote.
Anothee commenter worte: “Local proprietors in Kenting made fast money from Chinese tourists by increasing their prices. Now they are trying to do it with domestic tourists... I wanted to buy a bag of fruits, some grilled food, but the vendor wanted to charge me double what I pay in Taipei.”
After the meetings, it was announced that local businesses are to form a committee to manage the trash and sanitation situation on Kenting Main Street (墾丁大街), the main thoroughfare, which doubles as a bustling market at night.
The police said they would crack down on unlicensed food stalls and illegal encroachment on public spaces.
A spokesman for the committee said it would hire a crew of three cleaners to collect garbage at night and would place new trash bins every 50m.
Staff on motorcycles would help the cleaning crew and dispose of the collected garbage bags, the committee said.
Officials at the Hengchun Township (恆春) Police Precinct’s Kenting Substation said they would increase patrols, and issue fines to unlicensed stalls and peddlers occupying the road or public spaces.
The police had received many complaints from tourists and residents that they had to walk among the cars on the road, as curbs and sidewalks were all occupied by mobile stalls selling snacks, they said, adding that they would enforce traffic regulations from now on.
Chang Chang-yi (張昌益), a Kenting borough chief, said that the night market on Kenting Main Street had expanded greatly in the past few years, causing disorder and garbage problems.
The market has swelled to more than 300 mobile stalls, all crowded within a relatively small stretch of roadway, Chang said.
He suggested regulating mobile stalls and issuing licenses backed up by strict police enforcement.
However, a long-term solution would be to turn Kenting Main Street into a pedestrian walkway and divert motorized traffic to another, expanded road nearby.
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