Minister of Transportation and Communications Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) yesterday said that his ministry has not yet considered canceling the Taiwan Lantern Festival in Hsinchu City, adding that it would make adjustments depending on changes to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Lin was responding to questions from the media about whether the Tourism Bureau might consider canceling the annual flagship tourism event due to a cluster infection at a hospital in Taoyuan.
The festival would be held in an open area in downtown Hsinchu this year, Lin said on the sidelines of a tourism forum.
Photo courtesy of the Hsinchu City Government
The Tourism Bureau and Hsinchu City Government would make adjustments based on the situation, as well as the Central Epidemic Command Center’s assessment of the outbreak, he said.
Both would make an announcement if there is any change in plans, he said.
“The question is not whether the festival should be canceled. It should be how the event should proceed now,” Lin said.
While containing the outbreak remains the No. 1 priority, people need to carry on with their lives, he said.
The theme of the festival, “Riding the wind while chasing the light (乘風逐光),” expresses people’s hope of welcoming a bright future after the pandemic, and matches the government’s goal of enforcing disease-prevention measures, Lin added.
Minister Without Portfolio Chang Ching-sen (張景森) said in the opening speech of the forum that the pandemic has presented Taiwan with an opportunity to transform the domestic tourism market.
Prior to the pandemic, people had complained about huge crowds, traffic congestion and public toilets at tourist attractions, he said.
“The pandemic has left previously outbound tourists — about 18 million per year — unable to travel abroad. The travel expenses from this group of people could potentially reach NT$800 billion [US$28.08 billion], and a majority of them chose to spend [their money] in Taiwan last year,” Chang said.
“However, can we still keep these tourists in Taiwan once the pandemic is behind us? Can we still keep the NT$800 billion of domestic travel expenditure in the nation? That is when the test begins, which is why elevating the quality of domestic tourism is so important,” he said.
“The last thing I want to see is people traveling domestically when the borders are closed and feverishly traveling abroad once the pandemic is over,” he added.
The fundamental issue facing the tourism industry is that the nation has 18 million outbound tourists per year, but only 11 million inbound tourists, Chang said, adding that the domestic tourism market would not have sustainable growth if overall tour quality remains low.
Using Japan as an example, Chang said that 70 percent of Japanese do not have passports and only travel domestically.
This is because the government focuses on improving the quality of domestic tourism, which has helped form a loyal base of local travelers, he said.
The travel industry was able to maintain the domestic tourism market last year because the government was effective in containing the COVID-19 outbreak, Tourism Bureau Director-General Chang Hsi-chung (張錫聰) said.
The Ministry of Transportation and Communications has implemented policies to initiate qualitative and quantitative changes in the travel industry, he said.
Since July, the government has offered various vouchers, resulting in 18.46 million domestic travel visits from July to October, and generating an output value of NT$64.6 billion, Chang Hsi-chung said.
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