Hualien businesses suffer as guests call off visits

By Wang Chun-chi and Jonathan Chin  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Tue, Feb 13, 2018 - Page 3

Hualien hotels have seen more than 80 percent of their Lunar New Year reservations canceled since the magnitude 6 earthquake jolted the city on Feb. 6, Hualien County Commercial Hotel Union president Chen Yi-feng (陳義豐) said on Sunday.

“Some hotels even lost 95 percent of their guests for the period and several are considering putting their employees on leave for the Lunar New Year to cut their losses,” he added.

An average of 200,000 people typically visit Hualien during the holiday, but the quake might reduce that number by half this year, people in the local hospitality industry said.

With establishments countywide closing their doors so that they can make repairs, many hotels have no option but to offer their guests free rescheduling or let their employees take the holiday off to reduce overheads, they said.

Last year’s occupancy rates for the city’s larger hotels were down to about half, the lowest this decade, Chateau de Chine Hualien general manager Tang Yu-shu (唐玉書) said.

With the quake occurring in winter, an off season for area tourism, hoteliers’ financial losses are likely to be heavy, she said.

Nearly 40 guests have called to cancel or delay their stay at Chateau de Chine, she said, adding that most guests opted to reschedule, since the hotel is allowing them to do so for free.

Many vendors near the former Far Eastern Department Store building, which was tilted by the force of the quake, were forced to close for safety reasons, said Liu Jui-chi (劉瑞祺), founder of the confectionery store Hui Lan Shu Tao.

As a result of the closings and the decrease in visitors, area businesses might be facing about NT$1 million (US$34,014) in total revenue losses, he said.

“Although Hualien is still a safe place to visit, the powerful quake is having a lot of negative effects on the city’s economy, but I believe Hualien residents have the wherewithal to recover from this,” he said.