Sun, Aug 05, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Pingtung’s tourism industry sets sights on foreign charter flights, asks for funds

NEXT BALI:Regional travel associations and the county government said that the area would like to target the global market, welcoming flights from Tokyo and Seoul

By Tsai Tsung-hsien and Sherry Hsiao  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Hengchun Airport in Pingtung County is pictured on Thursday.

Photo: Tsai Tsung-hsien, Taipei Times

Pingtung County tourism industry associations have released a joint statement urging newly inaugurated Minister of Transportation and Communications Wu Hong-mo (吳宏謀) to upgrade runways and facilities at Hengchun Airport so that it could handle medium to heavy tourism traffic from the Asia-Pacific region.

Since the airport ceased operations in September 2014, there have been rumors that it might be permanently closed down.

A joint statement issued by the Tourism Industry League of Hengchun Peninsula, the Pingtung Tourism Association, the Pingtung Homestay Association and the Pingtung Association of Travel Agents said that when the airport was being planned in 2000, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications stated that fewer than 3.52 million tourists visited the Hengchun Peninsula (恆春半島) each year and about 2.62 million foreigners visited Taiwan in 1999.

Citing these facts, the government only invested NT$540 million (US$17.59 million at the current exchange rate) in the reconstruction of Hengchun Airport, rather than NT$10 billion, which would have prepared the runways and facilities for heavier traffic and positioned it as a medium to heavy traffic airport in the Asia-Pacific region, as international airlines suggested, said the statement, which was dated Wednesday.

Only light aircraft can operate at the airport, mostly transporting domestic cargo, the organizations said, adding that between November and March each year, the peninsula experiences five months of katabatic winds, which reduce flight safety, resulting in a decline in passenger traffic.

If the government had designed the airport for heavy traffic, perhaps it would be able to attract international travelers, as large aircraft are not affected by katabatic winds, it said.

Japan’s Narita International Airport, South Korea’s Incheon International Airport and Singapore’s Changi Airport are all within a three-and-a-half hour flight radius of Hengchun Airport, Tourism Industry League of Hengchun Peninsula chairman Chang Fu-sheng (張福生) said.

The government should take the 8 million annual visits to the Hengchun Peninsula into consideration and think about the hundreds of millions of annual tourist trips in the Asia-Pacific region, he said.

He added that “from the viewpoint of Lufthansa, Delta Air Lines, Japan Airlines, Singapore Airlines and Malaysia Airlines,” if Pingtung’s Hengchun Township (恆春) is determined to compete with Sanya, China, or Bali, Indonesia, and develops ecotourism, wellness tourism and other types of travel, the peninsula could come to mean more than Kenting and become a gateway to southern Taiwan, he said.

The Pingtung County Government’s Department of Information and Tourism said it would like Wu to come up with different policies and a new vision.

Expanding the airport and venturing into the global market are the county government’s long-term goals, the agency said, adding that it would continue to search for opportunities to attract international charter flights.

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