Taiwan shines at the Berlin International Tourism Bourse
Source： Taiwan Today
PHOTO: An eye-catching balloon floats above the Taiwan Pavilion at the recent International Tourism Bourse of Berlin. (Photos courtesy of Tourism Bureau, MOTC)
At the International Tourism Bourse of Berlin, held from March 7 to 11, Taiwan was at its “unique best,” to quote German and other international visitors, as it made a strong pitch for the island as a preferred destination for both leisure and business travelers.
With its unique comic designs, the Taiwan pavilion at the ITB provoked amusement and admiration amongst the guests during the “bubbly” happy hour hosted for trade visitors and the media.
Along with mouthwatering snacks and drinks, the pavilion served a generous sampling of the popular bubble tea, a Taiwanese invention now conquering much of Europe.
The Tourism Bureau under the ROC Ministry of Transportation and Communications, charged with promoting tourism to the island, presented the Taiwan pavilion as a giant-sized comic book, inspired by the British magazine “Monocle,” which has published a tourist guide with amusing sketches on Taiwan. Indeed, the Taiwan pavilion at the ITB show attracted a steady stream of travel agents, tour operators and others at what is touted by the organizing Messe Berlin as the world’s biggest tourism fair.
All the interesting features of Destination Taiwan were presented in colorful sketches, from its cultural attractions through its natural assets to its gastronomic delights and architectural landmarks, including Taipei 101. The visual display went well with the performances by Taiwan’s Classic & Creation Theatrical Group, with the members looking impressive in the eye-catching and colorful costumes of Taiwan’s aborigines.
Another attraction at the Taiwan pavilion was the display of art by a balloon sculptor who created amusing figures in the air. Indeed, the Taiwan pavilion could be easily identified from a distance at the ITB show, because a two and a half meter sized helium balloon hung over it. As explained by a Tourism Bureau representative providing information to visitors wanting to know the exact location of the pavilion, “one cannot possibly miss the balloon.”
The pavilion housed a number of important tourism players from Taiwan, including Edison Travel Service, Kuching Travel Service and Golden Foundation Tours Corp., as well the hotel group Howard Hotels and Taiwan-based China Airlines and EVA Air.
Joseph Cheng, chief of the international affairs section of the Tourism Bureau, provided an overview of the evolution of Taiwan’s tourism sector. Somewhat of a Johnny-come-lately, Taiwan has been involved for many years in tapping a robust sector inherent with good business potential.
“During the last 10 years, we have done a lot to create a hospitable environment for foreign visitors,” said Cheng in an interview with Taiwan Today at the ITB Berlin. Cheng said some 6.08 million tourists visited Taiwan last year, up from 5.5 million in 2010.
More than 50 percent of the visitors were leisure tourists, according to Cheng. Taiwan’s successive governments, both in the past and present, have underscored the importance of tourism for the island’s economy, and encouraged the creation of conditions conducive to attracting foreign tourists.
According to Cheng, Taiwan’s major tourism markets are Japan, mainland China, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore. He referred to these countries and regions as “important sources” of tourism. Taiwan has agreed on a visa-waiver facility with Malaysia, and direct flights have long existed between the two countries.
Cheng pointed out that ethnic Chinese tourists from a number of Asian countries enjoy visiting Taiwan because of cultural similarities, including a common language, and also because of landmarks such as Sun Moon Lake and Alishan, both of which appeal, in particular, to mainland Chinese tourists who spend, on average, between seven and eight days in Taiwan. Ethnic Chinese tourists from a number of Asian countries are also drawn by Taiwan’s old tradition of Chinese medicine.
But Taiwan is equally keen to attract tourists from the U.S. and Europe. This task has, however, become difficult in view of the economic downturn in these markets, characterized by unemployment, which usually has a restraining effect on foreign travel.
Nevertheless, arrivals from the U.S. have stabilized at 400,000 per year. A large portion of these tourists—about 55 percent—are business travelers. The U.S. will continue to be a major market for Taiwan, which operates three tourism promotion offices in the U.S.
“We are trying to get greater visibility in the U.S. and hope that traffic from the U.S. will not decrease this year. However, the Euro crisis has not had a strong impact on tourism traffic from Europe to Taiwan. We had some 1.3 million visitors from Japan. But the long-haul markets will take time to rebound,” Cheng explained.
Almost 200,000 European tourists, mainly from Germany, the United Kingdom and France, visited Taiwan in 2011, up from 190,000 in 2010.
Cheng underscored the importance of Germany as a source of tourism from Europe. Taiwan’s tourism promoters recently organized road shows and workshops in Frankfurt and Berlin.
“Taiwan’s biggest challenge has been that there is not enough awareness of Taiwan in Europe. We want to change that and focus on the three major markets—Germany, the United Kingdom and France—in Europe and also the U.S. We face competition from Singapore and mainland China,” Cheng added.
But some of the exhibitors at the Taiwan pavilion were saying in private conversations that Taiwan ought to take advantage of sports star Jeremy Lin’s popularity and purchase commercial slots on a U.S. sports radio channel for two months in the hope of attracting tourists to the native country of Lin’s parents. “Linsanity,” as the wave of Lin’s popularity is called, could provide a strong impetus to tourists to visit Taiwan.
The Tourism Bureau is planning to broadcast 30-second and 60-second-long promotional commercials called “Lin’s Hometown” before and after 14 New York Knicks games on ESPN Radio until late April when the regular NBA season will come to an end, according to Cheng. (HZW)
Copyright © 2012 Manik Mehta
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