Nation on ‘NY Times’ top 52 list

ON THE GLOBAL MAP::Taiwan was ranked No. 11 in a ‘New York Times’ list for places to visit this year for its ‘compact’ mix of ‘urban and outdoor pursuits’

Staff writer, with CNA

Mon, Jan 13, 2014 - Page 3

Taiwan’s brand image has been greatly boosted by a New York Times listing that ranks the country No. 11 on its list of “52 Places to Go in 2014,” the head of the Taiwan Visitor Association said on Saturday.

Chairwoman Janice Lai (賴瑟珍), who headed the Tourism Bureau between 2006 and 2012, called the ranking “an encouragement for both official and private” sectors and praised it as a push for Taiwan’s “Heart of Asia” campaign.

She attributed Taiwan’s inclusion in the paper’s annual selection to an increasing awareness of the country among North and South Americans, and Europeans — who she said had previously confused Taiwan with Thailand.

Lai also said an advertisement in Times Square during the New Year’s Eve countdown had helped the efforts to raise Taiwan’s profile.

That and other efforts have borne fruit, she said, saying there had been an increase in outdoor enthusiasts from Europe and the Americas.

These visitors included birdwatchers; travelers to Buddhist temples, such as Fo Guang Shan Monastery (佛光山) and Dharma Drum Mountain (法鼓山); and hikers heading for the scenic Sun Moon Lake (日月潭) and Taroko National Park.

While visitor numbers may have increased over several years, statistics show that Europeans and visitors from both Americas last year were not much changed from the year before, despite growth in Taiwan’s overall visitor numbers.

The nation welcomed about 450,000 travelers from the Americas and 200,000 from Europe in the first 11 months of last year, most of whom traveled independently of tour groups, official figures showed.

Tourism Bureau Deputy Director-General Chang Hsi-tsung (張錫聰) attributed the lack of growth in Western visitors to slow economic recovery across the world.

The Times annual list of top destinations, released on Friday, picked Taiwan for the nation’s suitability for “urban and outdoor pursuits in one [reasonably] compact package.”

South Africa’s Cape Town was placed at the top of the list for being “a place to meditate on freedom, and the creative life that followed.”

New Zealand’s Christchurch came in second, followed by northern coastal areas of California.