Adapting the local marketing concept of “One Town One Product” from Japan, Small and Medium Enterprise Administration, MOEA (Ministry of Economic Affairs), had started from 1989 to simulate distinctive local industry by integrating local resources and their specialties, now, a total of 96 featured towns have been successfully coached as some famous examples, such as, Tachia Taro, Luku Hsiao-Pan-Tien and Chungliao Plant Dye, etc...Note that this presentation is specifically aimed at foreigners. It merely shows that the people in the ministries not only do not understand western foreigners, they do not know that they are clueless. Here is an island with 60 stunning 3000 meter peaks, fantastic cycling, climbing, and hiking, as well as surfing and scuba diving, and they want me to go see plant dyeing in Chungliao?
I had the occasion the other day to talk to two bright, attractive people from a local research institution about this problem in the presence of D., a longtime expat with deep insights into local issues. D. pointed out that the government does not seem to want the backpacker crowd, feeling they don't spend any money, and would rather have the kind of tourist who stays at the Lai Lai and goes around in buses looking at and buying handicrafts. But D. argued that in fact, while the backpacker crowd may eat and sleep at cut-rate places, they lay out the cash to rent and buy equipment like bikes, boards, and oxygen tanks. Moreover, these two forms of tourism are complementary -- the big spending Chinese and Japanese tourists who shell out $300 a day stay, eat, and visit in different places than adventure tourists and backpackers.
Another perspicacious expat pal observed to me that the problem is really that the Ministries are simply not aware that the backpacker/adventure travel market exists, because so few Taiwanese are adventure travelers. I remember talking to the bright young people who clearly had extensive contacts with foreigners, and yet it was a totally new idea to them that adventure travel is a form of status chasing and display among foreigners, that the elements of risk, wildness, dirt, and loneliness, are signs of authentic experience to that set. My friend noted that his Taiwanese friends who are adventure travelers find it difficult to convey why they do it to their fellow Taiwanese.
The basic problem here is that the Ministries need to adopt the old Chinese paradigm of using barbarians to handle barbarians: hire foreigners to write and shoot a dedicated series of commercials aimed at this market. And for pete's sake, send those bureaucrats to Nepal!
UPDATE: Robert Kelly rebuts me in the comments section below.
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