Thu, Feb 14, 2019 - Page 4 News List

Hengchun visitors hit three-year high

WARM WELCOMEAn anonymous tourism industry source attributed an increase in tourists visiting Kaohsiung to a long Lunar New Year holiday and warm weather

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

Crowds of people watch a nighttime procession of vehicles on the main street of Kenting on Pingtung County’s Hengchun Peninsula during the Lunar New Year holiday.

Photo copied by Tsai Tsung-hsien, Taipei Times

More than 70,000 vehicles, or 200,000 visitors, traveled to the Hengchun Peninsula (恆春半島) from Tuesday to Saturday last week, the first five days of the Lunar New Year holiday, police estimates showed.

More than 10,000 vehicles traveled to the peninsula daily during that period, with the number peaking at more than 15,000 on Thursday last week, police said on Tuesday.

The five-day period saw the same number of vehicles traveling on Provincial Highway No. 26 — a major route into Pingtung County’s Hengchun Township (恆春) and Kenting National Park (墾丁國家公園) — as last year’s six-day Lunar New Year holiday that began on Feb. 15, police said.

Police estimated that the remaining four days of the nine-day holiday might have increased the total number of vehicles traveling in the region during the period to about 100,000, the highest in three years.

However, that number was still lower than the about 126,000 vehicles that traveled to the peninsula during the Lunar New Year holiday in 2016, which also lasted nine days.

The increase came after years of decline in tourism in the nation’s southernmost region, which some have attributed to an economic slowdown and negative experiences reported by earlier visitors.

Sales doubled from last year, a Kenting Street vendor nicknamed A-Kai (阿凱) said, adding that it has been a long time since they have seen crowds like this year’s.

All of the vendors and shop owners said that they were pleased to see visitors return, adding that local businesses were also careful when dealing with their customers, whom they cherish.

Tourists are no longer clustering around Kenting Street and have instead begun spreading to other parts of the peninsula, such as Checheng (車城), Manjhou (滿州) and Mudan (牡丹) townships, a veteran tour guide nicknamed Yang Yang (洋洋) said.

Everyone now has an opportunity to make money, the vendors said, adding that the trend has also reduced pressure on major attractions.

They said that they believe this would also lead to fewer customer complaints, as well as conflicts between customers and businesses, adding that the revival of tourism in the peninsula is headed in a good direction.

Tourist behavior has changed this year, a homestay operator surnamed Chu (朱) said, adding that crowds have remained at a steady level after the end of the holiday.

Many homestay operators have been able to attract business through to the Taiwan Lantern Festival, which runs from Tuesday next week to March 3 in Pingtung, she said.

Potential guests have been inquiring about accommodations for the four-day national holiday marking the 228 Incident, which begins on Feb. 28, she added.

Meanwhile in Kaohsiung, local authorities said that the Pier-2 Art Center attracted more than 700,000 visitors during the nine-day Lunar New Year holiday.

This year was the third time that the city hosted the “Max, Mix, Match” event at the center, Kaohsiung Bureau of Cultural Affairs Director-General Wang Wen-tsui (王文翠) said.

This year’s event, which ran from Tuesday to Sunday last week, featured more than 100 crafts vendors and more than 50 food vendors, as well as daily electronic music performances, she said.

During the event, some visitors reportedly waited in line more than a half-hour to buy food from popular vendors.

While the “Han wave,” or the surge in support for Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜), has attracted visitors from other areas, the unusually long Lunar New Year holiday and warm weather were the main reasons for the increase in tourists, said a tourism industry source, who asked to remain anonymous.

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