Friday, July 31, 2009

One Town One Product....

"One Town One Product" says the latest marketing ploy of the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA). The blurb notes:
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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Anonymous said...

It is a problem of Taiwanese failing to imagine how others travel and are only thinking from their own perspective.

Robert R. said...

We should send them to Stuff White People Like

Anonymous said...

jusst in case but the Toyota town in Japan was twise bankrupt because of economicaly crisises last decade. either is a population completly in the hands of the managers who hoice the next politicans and representatives over the peoples head. i remember there was very good report how many people became homeless just overnight when management did the next cut for better stock markets report..

i smell a very big try of rich chinese families to get the population by the nuts with making a job- and tax-monopolist in the town wich will be keept in their hands with a money-help from the mainland china.. works wounderbar in Macau and many parts of Mainland China.

阿牛 said...

Yes, brilliant! Next, make sure not to put up any English infastructure at your truly great tourist destinations! Don't think of providing free English classes to people running joints in tourist zones! And invite everyone to Gangshan to see a lot of 18 wheeler trucks with steel coils on them!

This place is so cool, and the government really just can't put together any serious tourist campaign.

David said...

A small piece of trivia... The acronym OTOP is the also same as that used in Thailand where it stands for One Tambon One Product. (Tambon means village). OTOP was a major policy of the Thaksin government.

Anonymous said...

If you send out a fleet of stalls selling roast corn, sausages and cheap plastic toys anything can look like a tourist spot.

NotSure said...

Little do they realize that once the economic depression really kicks in, the people that were once considered the "higher class" tourists will become the future budget backpack travelers. They will be the only ones that can afford to travel.

Regarding PRC tourists, they will have more on their minds than sightseeing if/when the SSE implodes. I think that demographic is questionable short/mid term at least, imo.

Another issue: One of the KMT's solutions for attracting more tourists is to build casinos. Recent news is that Penhgu now allows visas on landing to Chinese (which we knew was coming). They are setting the stage for this.

But casinos are wrong for so many reasons, most of all because THE HOUSE ALWAYS WINS. Money will be sucked out of Taiwan into the hands of foreigners. (who will only build if they get enormous tax breaks). It's insanity for the KMT to push for casinos. Casinos are what dying economies turn to at the very end to stay afloat.

Sad that now one of the growing industries (scams?) in TW is the development of Casino schools. Last I counted there were 4 in business. I wonder how many dealers Taiwan needs for just 2 casinos? (proposed by the .gov) (UNLV)

Another school is in Ktown and another in Hualien.

lastly, another misnomer we will see more of is the word "gaming" instead of what it really is, "gambling". It's a marketing ploy used by the industry to tone down their image.

Yeah, as you can tell, I am against this industry for many reasons. I have some other ideas for how to attract different levels of tourists, but will save that for another post.

Robert Scott Kelly said...

Michael, you are way off on this. In the first place the website clearly states "To meet Taiwanese’s requirement for a spirit of a nice trip" so I'm not sure how this is being aimed at foreigners. In any case, even if it was, what is wrong with it? Westerners like to go to quaint little towns and villages that have a traditional local industry. Not many of these places exist yet in Taiwan but these measures will go a long way to helping with rural and small town regeneration.

In any case, it is not just dying being promoted but tea (nope foreigners wouldn't be interested in that), blue fin tuna, stone carving, farm festivals, etc.

Many different government agencies in Taiwan cover tourism in their mandates. I think it is safe to say the Small and Medium Enterprise Administration is not in to promoting the high mountains or cycling.

Who is into promoting cycling is the Ministry of Transportation. Just last week they approved the budget to transform 19 train stations on the east coast so that they are suitable for bike travellers. They've also apporved the plans for hundreds of kilometres of dedicated bike paths to be completed in the next few years (one 75km stretch from Liyu Lake outside Hualian to Yuli is supposed to be ready at the end of this year). The Tourism Board has called the plan for biking on the east coast the most comprehensive in Asia and involves the cooperation of private enterprise (especially Giant Bicycles), the Railway Adminstration, the police, and the Tourism Board itself. Some levels of the government certainly do get the idea of adventure travel.

Alton said...

You must not be seeing the same sites I am. The Taiwan Tourist Bureau aggressively seeks the participation of foreigners in designing and promoting tours for foreigners. Backpackers are most definitely included in this.

A good example is this contest now in progress:

When relating to foreigners it certainly helps Taiwanese professional to understand the Bobo phonemenon. Many things follow from that, including 'adventure tourism.'

Asia doesn't do the Bobo thing. It's an American/European phenomenon.