Matsu islands aim to attract more overseas tourists

STAFF WRITER, WITH CNA

Sun, Aug 29, 2010 - Page 2

The outlying Matsu island group is launching a drive to attract more foreign tourists in the hope that a boost to local tourism can prevent its marginalization amid seemingly warmer ties between Taiwan and China.

“If Matsu does not try to leverage its geographic advantages, its economy will be marginalized as cross-strait direct flights are now running at full steam,” Lianjiang County Government Tourism Bureau director Tsao Erh-yuen (曹爾元) said.

Matsu, an archipelago in the Taiwan Strait, lies 190km from Keelung and 19km from the Chinese coast, and is administered by Taiwan as part of Lianjiang County.

Tsao said that the local economy received a boost in 2001 after the implementation of the “small three links” that allow limited postal, transport and trade links between several Chinese cities and Kinmen and Matsu.

However, since direct flights, shipping and postal routes between Taiwan proper and China were fully implemented in 2008, Matsu has become merely a “stopover” en route to Taiwan for Chinese tourists, Tsao added.

“Generally speaking, our local tourism really needs a shot in the arm,” he said.

The Lianjiang County tourism bureau said that total tourist arrivals to Matsu were about 20,000 in 2004, increasing to more than 80,000 last year. Kinmen attracts far more travelers than Matsu — a 5-1 ratio.

For this reason, Matsu, which is known for its liquor production, traditional Fujianese architecture and military tunnels and fortresses, intends to do everything it can to attract more foreign tourists, who account for less than 10 percent of its annual visitors, Lianjiang County Commissioner Yang Sui-sheng (楊綏生) said.