The current issue of CommonWealth Magazine (天下) locates "The Six Lures Hooking Foreign Visitors". The introduction to the article identifies Taiwan's difficulties in competing with Europe and Japan for tourism dollars and then seeks to contrive emotive experiences for potential visitors.
Taiwan's people seem more smitten with Europe's streetscapes and Japan's culture than their country's own beauty. But CommonWealth Magazine has identified six major lures that overseas visitors have come to appreciate.
In June 2007, after Yang and three friends circumnavigated Taiwan by bicycle, he decided to leave the online game company he was working for and devote himself to running his biking haven, the Frog Café. He was so enthralled by the spirit of adventure and feelings of attachment for his native land he experienced during his tour of Taiwan that he wanted to encourage young people to share the adventure.
Yang invested NT$200,000 in 15 bicycles kept at his Bali outlet that are available for people to rent or borrow. Those who submit a simple "Frog Round-Taiwan Bicycling Sponsorship Plan" online, pay a NT$500 maintenance fee and contribute NT$500 to a fund for sustainably promoting biking around the island can use the bikes in Yang's shop for an unlimited number of days.
"Surprisingly, the first person to submit an application was a woman from Hong Kong. She said she wanted to use the bicycle to get to know Taiwan's beautiful natural scenery," Yang says.
After that, many other ethnic Chinese, from Chinese exchange students to Malaysian office workers, took advantage of Yang's plan to tour Taiwan's mountains and coastline.
These destinations all showcase pastoral landscapes that are so poignant, they evoke deep emotions in many ethnic Chinese. Community-building efforts have generated a vitality similar to that of the spring planting season, when the soil is broken up and new seedlings germinate, yielding unique green sightseeing opportunities.
In recent years, Taiwan's leisure farms have even developed strong name recognition in Singapore and Malaysia, drawing many ethnic Chinese families from the two countries.
More than 140,000 foreign nationals have already visited Taiwan's recreational farms this year, according to statistics from the Taiwan Leisure Farming Development Association, signs that a 20-year campaign to build tourism around local agriculture is having some success. The initiative first positioned farms as tourist orchards, and then they slowly evolved into integrated recreational areas complete with restaurants, accommodation and DIY farming experiences.
In recent years, the country's dynamic and enterprising cultural creativity has generated many commercial festivals attractive to the ethnic Chinese community that bear little resemblance to traditional holiday celebrations.
"What we are selling is Taiwan's outstanding lifestyle, attitude and aesthetics. We examine our vision of life and hope to successfully communicate an interpretation of ‘life' with everybody, or at least with all ethnic Chinese,"
Preserving the Spirit of the Country Scholar
Because most guesthouses are situated in the countryside, they allow foreign tourists to experience the life of the traditional Chinese countryside scholar, as preserved in Taiwan. Pei Chin, the owner of the Riomont Penthouse in Yilan County, lived in California for 25 years before returning to Taiwan and was stunned to find traditional agrarian scenes everywhere.
"The forgotten practice in Chinese culture of pursuing learning while tilling the soil was somehow preserved really well in Yilan County," Chin says, and this was one of his inspirations for opening his own guesthouse.