Each time the Michelin Guide reveals its lists, restaurant owners and consumers look forward to tasting some local delicacies.
This year, additions for the first time include Taichung, where 21 restaurants made the Bib Gourmand list. With the previous listings in Taipei, the tourism industries in the two cities are in a position to use the listings to attract more visitors, boost tourism and stimulate local businesses.
In the past, the four elements most highly valued by tourists from China and other countries have been tourist spots, transportation options, accommodation and food quality.
However, for local tourism, the importance of food outweighed other factors.
In Taichung, the Bib Gourmand list is made up mostly of restaurants, rather than night-market food vendors or street food, unlike Taipei, which has a more varied list. There are many famous night markets in Taichung, such as in the Fengjia (逢甲) and Yizhong (一中) areas, but none of the food sold at them made the list.
Perhaps this is a reflection of the tastes and preferences of the judges, but my experience from living in Taichung indicates that night-market foods were excluded because of the growing similarity between night markets in the past few years, perhaps because vendors are trying too hard to please international tourists.
Although there are many characteristic foods and drinks, the quality at many businesses has fallen short of the standards seen in the past decade.
In Taiwan’s domestic food and beverage market, consumer tastes and business standards have improved, partially thanks to the establishment of brands run by Wowprime Corp, Tai Tong Food & Beverage Group and others, as well as some international chains. Some restaurant brands, such as Din Tai Fung and Shanghai Kitchen, both established in Taipei, and Pin Ba Fang Roasted Goose Bistro, which was established in Changhua, attract lots of customers from outside the cities.
Further enhancing the value of domestic tourism by promoting trips throughout the nation over multiple days would require more room for innovation. This could be achieved by developing a nighttime economy to supplement evening consumption services, or the promotion of even more localized foods.
Many chain food brands are available in most counties and cities, and demand across cities and counties is determined by demand for new tastes and unique experiences.
Taiwan once put a lot of emphasis on the “night market economy” and “snacks for the common people.” A unique local atmosphere and thorough planning would attract visitors from across the country who want to experience the characteristics of different night markets. That could be a boon for domestic tourism and create business opportunities.
When business owners, including vendors of street snacks and inexpensive foods, are willing to make an effort to maintain the quality and reputation of their brands, they will meet expectations and keep visitors from being disappointed.
Wang Fu Kai is president of the Chinese Integrated Marketing Communications Association.
Translated by Lin Lee-kai
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