Thu, Feb 15, 2018 - Page 4 News List

Tourism turns to eastern Aboriginal communities

By Hsiao Yu-hsin  /  Staff reporter

Guanshan Township Farmers’ Association staff promote the area’s award-winning agricultural products in Taitung County on Aug. 9 last year.

Photo: Chang Tsun-wei, Taipei Times

Hotels and tourism businesses on the nation’s east coast have been promoting cultural tours to Aboriginal communities in a bid to attract domestic tourists, following a decrease in the number of Chinese tourists since 2016.

The number of Chinese tour groups has been declining since the second half of 2016, causing the economic stagnation of the tourism industry in Hualien, Taitung and Chiayi counties, as well as Pingtung County’s Kenting Township (墾丁), where many businesses had relied on the Chinese.

Hospitality businesses in Taitung used to make their living entertaining Chinese groups, but the decrease has compelled them to attract local and Southeast Asian tourists, Hotel Royal Chihpen general manager Liu Tsu-ning (劉祖寧) said.

The domestic tourism market has become more competitive than ever, Liu said, adding that there is an oversupply of tour services.

The number of Taiwanese visitors to Taitung last year grew 5 percent from 2016, county government data showed, meaning that it has a steady customer base of domestic tourists.

Chung Min-yuan (鍾敏淵), owner of a Hakka restaurant in Taitung’s Guanshan Township (關山), said the number of local and foreign tourists from the US, Europe and Hong Kong has increased significantly since October last year.

In a bid to create new opportunities in the market, travel agencies have started offering packages to experience Aboriginal culture, Liu said.

Since 2016, Hotel Royal Chihpen has worked with Taitung’s Aboriginal communities to promote such packages, which allow tourists to visit Aboriginal homes and experience their traditional way of life, instead of merely taking pictures at tourist spots, he said.

In Taitung’s Kanding Community (崁頂部落), the hotel’s guests can get a taste of traditional Bunun snacks, such as roselle flowers and millet cakes, and listen to Aboriginal hunters describe how they make animal traps, Liu said.

The preservation of Aboriginal cultures has been challenging, as many young people continue to leave their communities, while many communities have abandoned the cultivation of millet and have been growing other crops with greater economic value, Taitung Sustainable Development Society secretary-general Huang Cheng-te (黃正德) said.

Millet is an important crop in traditional Aboriginal life, and several rituals had been developed around its sowing and harvesting, Huang said, adding that the rituals are not as common as they used to be, which implies that Aboriginal traditions are disappearing.

However, by collaborating with the tourism industry, Aboriginal communities can resume their millet traditions and secure a secondary income, Huang said.

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