Seeing Taiwan: Enrich the TaiwanTravel Experiences
People who travel frequently in Taiwan have probably noticed that tourism is on the rise throughout the island. Almost every corner of Taiwan, from Kinmen to Sun Moon Lake and from Kending to Taroko Gorge, has experienced a surge in the number of visitors, as evidenced by parking lots filled with tour buses and large crowds at key sights. Some of the increase in travel is due to a rise in domestic tourism, as many Taiwanese have re-acquainted themselves with close-to-home attractions, while some of the new travelers are from mainland China. But wherever they are from, some of the credit for the surge in tourism goes to the Taiwan Tourism Bureau, which has been working behind the scenes to make the island’s attractions better-known, easier to access, and more user-friendly.
Each year, the Taiwan Tourism Bureau unveils a series of initiatives designed to highlight the island’s top tourist attractions and make it easier for tourists to reach those attractions. This year, in its latest initiative, the Bureau has launched a project called Taiwan Easy Go, a seamless travel plan that offers assistance to local governments to help them link together different types of transportation, including a system of integrated ticketing, to serve top tourist sights. So far, the initiative includes 10 counties and one city, which among them account for most of the top attractions in Taiwan.
Besides being integrated, the tickets are also lower-priced, and shuttle buses are provided to whisk tourists between train stations and tourist attractions. For example, Alishan how boasts a special bus service that picks up sightseers at the Chiayi High-Speed Rail station, and then carries them comfortably to the Alishan Mountain Recreation Area, Fencihu, and other high mountain attractions, before taking them back to the Chiayi High-Speed Rail station.
Another example is Sun Moon Lake, where the Nantou County government and the Tourism Bureau are working together to provide a seamless service to link Taichung, the Taichung High-Speed Rail station, and Sun Moon Lake. The project is partly funded by the Tourism Bureau, and like the other Easy Go services, is dedicated to providing a shorter travel time and a better overall travel experience. Visitors will arrive at the Shuishe Tourist Center in Sun Moon Lake, a well-appointed new Tourism Bureau facility with a friendly English-speaking staff. From the convenient location in the small town of Shuishe, round-the-lake bus trips, hiking trails, boat trips, and accommodations are readily available.
The new seamless travel promotion is part of an ongoing Tourism Bureau effort to improve the quality of travel in Taiwan, a mission that runs parallel to its ongoing goal of promoting the island as an attractive destination.
Another current initiative is the Medium Term Plan for Construction of Major Tourist Sites, which aims to build or renovate tourist facilities at National Scenic Areas, which are administered by the Bureau. Many of the improvements are modest, but added together, they amount to an appreciable improvement in the travel experience. Along the north coast, for example, the Bureau has had a hand in rebuilding the Fulong train station, reopening the previously closed Old Caoling Tunnel to turn it into a bike-friendly pathway, and removing illegal structures on Provincial Highway 2, a move that has opened new tourist vistas.
At Sun Moon Lake, the Bureau has helped rebuild Checheng, a tourist attraction at the end of the Jiji Branch Rail Line, and in particular the Checheng Wood Museum, which now stands as a historical summary of the logging that once took place in the area. Shuishe Pier, once a tiny wharf used mostly by private boats on Sun Moon Lake, is now a broad set of docks that welcomes the popular public boats that ply the lake.
Likewise in Alishan, the Bureau has helped rebuild the Historical Exhibition Room at Fenqihu, while in Hengchun Peninsula in the far south, it has built a new bicycle trail and a new visitor center. And on the east coast, the Bureau has had a hand in improving the Yuli Bicycle Trail and Luye Plateau paragliding field, and making landscape improvements to Liyu, a scenic lake in the Rift Valley.
The Tourism Bureau has also been helping hotels to upgrade by providing consultation and assistance, and in some cases subsidies to help defray design and planning expenses. In all, more than 250 hotels have been upgraded, with improvements made to more than 15,000 guest rooms.
Yet another initiative promotes healthy travel, which is becoming more popular in Taiwan as local residents rediscover the natural heritage of the island. Green Island and Little Liuqiu are being redeveloped as eco-friendly tourist islands, a move that will highlight their natural beauty and their surrounding sea life. Recent upgrades include helping to build the new Liuqiu Camping Area Service Center, and the new Green Island Ecology Observation Center.
The Bureau will also continue to oversee the Eastern Taiwan Bike Network Demonstration Plan, and other bike-friendly initiatives, such as the construction of new bikeway facilities, and the ongoing organization of large-scale international cycling competitions.
Naturally, the Bureau is continuing to raise Taiwan’s international tourism profile. In MRT stations in Hong Kong and Singapore, on expressway overpasses in Malaysia, and on cabs in London, the attractions of Taiwan are on display. Next year, a Tour Taiwan and Experience the Centennial action plan will be used to attract more international tourists to Taiwan to mark the 100th anniversary of the founding of the republic.
Some concrete goals are associated with the various initiatives. This year, the Bureau hopes to attract 4.5-million inbound visitors, up from 4.395 million in 2009, while the goal for 2012 is 5.5-million visitors. For each of its target markets, the Bureau has designed tailored promotions. For Europeans and Americans, for example, Chinese-language learning, Buddhism study, leisure travel, and lifestyle promotions such as tea drinking and folk customs are on the agenda. Fine dining, medical healthcare, and hot springs will be used to attract mainland Chinese, while shopping and golf will be emphasized for Southeast Asian visitors.
Success for these programs will enable the tourism businesses at Sun Moon Lake, Alishan, and other areas to prosper, and give tourists a better and smoother overall travel experience.
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