Romantic matchmaking tours planned

‘DESTINATION FOR ROMANCE’::About 100 single foreign tourists will be divided into small groups to tour the south, as in popular Japanese reality show ‘Ainori’

Staff writer, with CNA

Thu, Nov 15, 2012 - Page 4

Taiwan will soon start to play matchmaker for foreign tourists as part of a campaign to position itself as a “destination for romance,” the Tourism Bureau said yesterday.

“We want to explore every opportunity to make Taiwan ‘romantic,’” said Cheng Yi-ping (鄭一平), section chief at the bureau’s International Travel Division.

Beyond continuing to feature Taiwan as a romantic destination for spending honeymoons or shooting wedding photographs, Cheng said the bureau is trying to reach singles through event-based travel packages.

A pilot program will run on Nov. 24 and Nov. 25 to test the waters, Cheng said, with about 100 single foreign tourists (half men and half women aged 20 or older) to be randomly divided into small groups as they tour picturesque townships in southern Taiwan.

Cheng said the itinerary was partly patterned after the popular Japanese realitsy show Ainori, or “Love Ride,” which tracks the budding love between strangers traveling in foreign lands on the same bus.

In the tour to Tainan, she said, the “assigned” groups will have the chance to visit four temples dedicated to the Old Man Under the Moon (the god of love and marriage).

The visitors, mostly from Japan, South Korea and Malaysia, will also participate in what the bureau described as “surprise events” to further interact with one another.

“We have received a very positive response so far,” Cheng said. “You can tell from the fact that we have received enquiries from gay people and a mother-daughter duo.”

Even if some of the people brought together on the tours do not hit it off, Cheng said she believed the campaign would enhance Taiwan’s reputation as a fun and romantic tourist destination. She also said she expected it to create a loyal base of return customers who visit Taiwan often because of the bonds they have developed with the country and its people.

Aside from offering the Old Man Under the Moon theme, the bureau will extend the “romantic” concept to other theme tours, shaping packages by appealing to people’s fantasies and imagination, Cheng said.

“Our concept is that being romantic means being able to feel the various joys of life,” she said.

For example, a celebrity chasing itinerary targeting the fantasies of Southeast Asian tourists will be offered next year through a collaboration between the bureau and the local entertainment industry, she said.

The tour concept is to have fans of Taiwanese rapper and actor Jay Chou (周杰倫), for instance, tour the spots that appear in his work, attend his promotional events and visit the restaurants or shops he owns.

“Even just a glimpse of his agent’s office or office building will do,” she said. “You call it crazy? We call it romantic.”