Monday, July 07, 2008

Taiwan Tour Operators Skeptical of Big $$

AFP reports that tour operators in Taiwan remain skeptical of the big boom coming from Chinese tourism. Although the arguments that they give are often driven by cross-cultural prejudice:
Taiwan has restricted trade and travel since its split from the mainland in 1949 but the election of Beijing-friendly Ma Ying-jeou in March opened the door to warmer ties.

In a sign of rapprochement, the two sides last month held their first direct talks in a decade and signed agreements to launch the flights and treble the number of Chinese allowed to visit the island to 3,000 daily.
It's common for the media to present Chen as "limiting" ties but Ma as opening them. 1,000 or 3,000, it is still a limit. What Ma did was attempt to expand the cap. Note, however, that AFP leaves out the reality we learned last week: that China is still limiting tourists to under 1,000 a day with no concrete plan to raise the total, just vague promises.

Tourism officials hope the extra visitors, beside promoting cordial people-to-people exchanges, will bring in 60 billion Taiwan dollars (1.97 billion US) annually, a big boost to local trade.

Observe again that this information on the Tourism Cargo Cult is given without any caveats, even though investment analysts and prominent academics have said that the boost will not be great even if we have 3,000 sheep to shear each day.

"The agreements might look good on paper but I dare not think how much I can profit from that with a slow economy, rising inflation and high fuel prices," said Wu Shih-chih, who hires out yachts to tourists.

"I will not consider buying a new yacht or other equipment unless I can see a steady increase in business within six months," said Wu, who has four craft taking visitors around Sun Moon Lake, a popular destination in central Taiwan.

Others are concerned that Chinese tourists, sometimes seen as loud and ill-mannered, could drive away other international travellers.

"We have fewer Japanese visitors since the government opened up to more mainlanders," lamented a bus driver who works for a leading travel agency in Taipei.

"I am not thrilled at receiving the mainlanders because they can be proud and impolite, they think China is so important in the world," said the driver, who asked not to be named.

Jack Lee, manager of a Taipei travel agency, said he often gets complaints from restaurants or shops that Chinese tour groups are too noisy or pay no attention to no-smoking signs.

"Some waiters also complained that Chinese customers throw bones or leftovers on the floor instead of leaving them on the plates or let cigarette ash fall everywhere," Lee said, although most were willing to oblige when told.
The boorishness of Chinese is a commonplace observation, but note the bus driver's comment that there are fewer Japanese coming since they got more Chinese. An interesting comment, especially since there aren't more Chinese. The limit hasn't risen, and the island will get the same "boost" it always got.

I'm curious how the KMT Administration will portray tourism gains, because this year the island might well get four million tourists, a new record -- arrivals equal to over 1/6 of the population. The China Post reported:

Of the inbound tourists so far this year, those from South Korea recorded the highest annual increase of 42%, followed by a 35% gain for those from Hong Kong and Macao, and a 27% surge for tourists from Malaysia.

Given the sharp growth, the number of inbound tourists is expected to not only exceed the historical high of 3.72 million recorded in 2007, but also break the 4 million mark to hit a new high this year, according to the Tourism Bureau.

After Ma Ying-jeou is sworn in as new president on May 20, the new government is expected to step up liberalizing entry of mainland Chinese tourists. This is expected to significantly vitalize Taiwan's tourism sector, with enterprises busy building new tourist hotels and setting up new travel agencies.

In fact, Taiwan's agro-tourism in the form of leisure farms is attracting increasing numbers of foreign visitors, especially from Singapore, and has won much praise in the area of service, an official of the Council of Agriculture (COA) said yesterday.

To help transform the farming sector into a service industry, the government is trying to develop agro-tourism, which gives tourists a taste of life in the Taiwanese countryside and its produce, along with human interest in the form of the farmers themselves, the COA official said.

"Agro-tourism." Selling nostalgia to Singaporeans.... It is interesting to compare -- Japan had 8.34 million tourists visit in 2007, despite being much larger than Taiwan is. Thailand gets about 15 million tourist arrivals. And the Philippines with all those beautiful beaches? Just over 3 million in '07. Malaysia, on the other hand, reached nearly 21 million arrivals. For a country with neither ruins nor beaches nor internationally famed culture, Taiwan does pretty well for itself. Need to develop those mountains for trekking, though.

Will the KMT take the rising numbers (which would have risen anyway) and attribute the growth to the "success" of its policy of bringing warm bodies in from China? I'd bet money...

Speaking of the Philippines, the KMT-CCP lovefest is creasing the foreheads of investment recruiters all over the Pacific, as it may mean that Taiwan money will flow to China instead of elsewhere. A recruiter in the RP argued:

Jackson Gan, vice president of the Federated Association of Manpower Exporters (FAME), urged the government to revise its investment policies and attract Taiwanese industrialists to move their small- and medium-scale factories to Northern Luzon.

"The warming relations between Taiwan and China marked by the first direct flight last July 4, 2008 from Guangzhou to Taipei is a wake-up call for government policy makers to revised trade and investment rules for Taiwanese businessmen still eager to do business in the country," Gan said in a statement.

He added, "Taiwan's increasing trade and cultural ties with China will encourage more Taiwanese industrialists to put up factories in China, endangering the jobs of over 100,000 Filipino workers who are the backbone of the manufacturing, electronics and assembly operations of hundreds of factories in Taiwan."

Is there really such a great threat?


Anonymous said...

The big change is that KMT talks the talk, and walks the walk. Nobody is denying the positive sign, except in this forum where negative comments continue to be churned up endlessly without an ounce of contentment. For those who are guilty of not knowing the obvious, the revenue generated from tourism is tremendous to say the least. Europe welcomes them, Canada welcomes them, and the world at large all welcomes Chinese tourists. Yeah, if you are thinking of big fat $$ right away, you must be dreaming. Think of the long term benefits, think of Taiwan where peace now prevails over hostility.

Only one government has the will, the confidence and the support of the majority of Taiwanese to made it happen. To praise the DPP for their eight rotten years of politiking is getting to be absurd by the days.

Michael Turton said...

The revenue generated from extra Chinese tourists is at present zero. As you wisely note, we should see the long term.

And you had actually read anything I posted, I have never had anything negative to say about Chinese tourists here. Not a single word. I'd love them to be here. Rather, I have consistently hacked on those idiots, knowing and unknowing, who have imagined that tourism can "save" Taiwan's economy and solve its economic problems. In that I am exactly like prominent academics and investment analysts who have repeatedly and consistently said that the claims made on behalf of Chinese tourists are overblown.

But then I really didn't expect the pro-China trolls to have anything intelligent to say anyway.


Anonymous said...

beway is a troll. arty is a troll. even the blue media can't protect Ma from his incompetence. he's done such a horrible job that even the blue media doesn't say anything good about what he's doing. their only resort is to randomly insert comments about how bad things used to be in between fierce criticisms of Ma and Liu Chao-Shuan.

Anonymous said...

I saw a woman on TV yesterday in the Shih Lin market talking about how she's not expecting much from the Chinese tourists as they bought one "Ouwazen" and asked for 7 bowls and 7 pairs of chopsticks.

Let the peoples on both sides of the strait meet each other and learn the reality behind the myth of "One Chinese People and common Chinese culture".

Tommy said...

"For those who are guilty of not knowing the obvious, the revenue generated from tourism is tremendous to say the least. "

Who said tourism is not an economic benefit? Many have questioned the rosy numbers though. Nothing is wrong with that, Beway.

Anonymous said...

Tommy said...

Anon, that sounds promising, but don't forget that this batch of tourists has been told exactly how to behave. This is also the first group, which is made up of people who got their spots on the planes through money/influence.

They know that people are watching them go everywhere.

This article also doesn't cite any other media than the China Times, and what the China Times says is laughable: oooh....lookey lookey... Chinese women strolling around in high heels and using credit cards!

This reads more like a KMT press non-story than anything else. The tourists might have a very positive effect, but I wouldn't use this article as anything more than scrap paper.

Tang Buxi said...

The 1000 tourist/day cap wasn't the key restriction on mainland tourism. The main problem is that "mainland tourism" was only open to PRC citizens residing *outside of the mainland*. The actual number of arrivals in Taiwan holding PRC passports were far lower than 1000 tourists/day, I'm sure.

This is the real key change that the Ma administration has brought in, allowing mainland residents the right to tour Taiwan.

Tang Buxi said...

As far as anonymous above:

Let the peoples on both sides of the strait meet each other and learn the reality behind the myth of "One Chinese People and common Chinese culture".

I completely agree. I just happen to have a very different understanding of the reality of the one Chinese people. I'm very confident you're ultimately going to be disappointed.

StefanMuc said...

Well if there is no increase in the number of Chinese tourists, then logically they can't really be responsible for driving away the Japanese tourists. Is there another factor causing this decline? Or was the limit of 1000 per day for the Chinese not actually exhausted, previously?

As for the gains of tourism - while Chinese tourists bring money to Taiwan, this must work in the other direction, too - Taiwanese spending their vacation (and their money) in China rather than at home. While Taiwan is a very very beautiful place, Tourism gains usually go from the richer to the poorer country, and that's China in this case. Not that I'm opposed to people travelling freely - it's their money, after all. However as an economic policy this may not have much to contribute.

Richard said...

Does peace really now prevail in Taiwan beway? I'm pretty sure Taiwan is still in the same boat with the same projectiles aimed at Taiwan.

Anonymous said...

The huge, huge growth in Japanese and Korean tourists--this is the political accomplishment of the DPP, no way around it. Japan is quite wealthy, obviously, and South Korea, though its PPP-adjusted per-capita GDP is less than Taiwan's, has the nice benefit of really jacked up local prices means it's really cheap to go abroad (to Taiwan) and spend like a mofo.

These few years, it's been one of the bright spots of Taiwan's service sector, which is otherwise really weak. But just as the very nice growth in tourists, esp. from Asia has been nothing to sneeze at but not a miracle potion, tourists from China won't magically make everything better either.

Michael Turton said...

Yeah, I know -- that's another way of looking at the absurdity of the claim. Tourist arrivals increased massively from many countries, but the economy was not "saved" thereby.


Tommy said...

Well I have a feeling that a lot of the irrational exheuberance about China's economic opportunities for Taiwan have to do with the "no" factor.

You are a child and your mother tells you, "Billy, you cannot have that toy." You will want the toy and even attach some kind of special value to that toy. All of your problems would be solved if you just had that toy....

Then you get the toy for Christmas and you are bored with it in 30 minutes.

For a very long time, Taiwanese have witnessed the phenomenal expansion of China and have observed their government's resistance to allowing them to take full part. Despite actually being very active in China's growth, the perception has been there that China is the forbidden fruit that, once cultivated, will solve all of the problems and return Taiwan to the miracle years.

This is what the KMT was elected to do. Buy the toy. South Koreans and Japanese are old toys. The Taiwanese have played with them before, so they don't notice when the number of toys rises. The Chinese tourists are the new toy. They will add to the economy, but they will not solve any of Taiwan's problems in themselves. None of the KMT's "solutions" will, although a point may be added to GDP in the long run. It may not even raise household income much.

This is what is behind the China hype. Not a love for China, but the want of a new toy that will be sooo fun to play with.

The irony is that so many Chinese and foreign media can't distinguish among the Taiwanese the difference between 爱国 and 爱玩.

Anonymous said...

Is there really such a great threat?

My tai tai commented today that the U.S. won't sell weapons to Taiwan (95% of all weapons in the world are produced by the sitting members of the UN Security Council). I said, 'no need to worry, China has Ma running the island now'. No need for weapons.

All those Chinese tourists will bring lots of money! (yeah, right).

Koreans love the Philippines. Lots of Korean sub communities there.

chinaphil said...

Jesus H, did you notice the copy and paste giveaway in that AP article?

Paragraph 12:
"Pro-Chen Sanlih TV broadcast footage..."

And you wonder why AP and the other majors seem to present a skewed picture of Taiwan: they're literally copying paragraphs from sources that wear their politics right on their sleeves. What do you think happened here? An AP reporter/sub who doesn't know anything about Taiwan or the Chinese language, and actually thought those three words were all part of the name of the TV station?

Anonymous said...

China has currently limited the number of tourists to 1000 per a day.

On top of that, the actual numbers of Chinese tourists coming over through weekend direct charter flights so far are 700 for an entire week (the tourists coming through a third destination were already allowed to come under the DPP).

How many Taiwanese went to Shanghai last weekend instead of spending their money in Taiwan?

Beway, you continue to troll. Keep at it, let's see how long you can keep it up in the face of overwhelming evidence that Ma is simply incompetent.