Thursday, October 20, 2016

Surveying the cratered landscape of Taiwan's tourism industry

My friend Dom peers out over the ruins of bed and breakfasts strewn across the hills of Miaoli

It's said in the media, so it must be true. A recent iteration:
Since the May inauguration of the new president Tsai Ing-wen from the anti-mainland side of Taiwanese politics, China has turned off the tap. Chinese group tours are down 40 per cent, hitting the central and southern regions of the island hard.
Skipping over the extremely stupid formulation "anti-mainland", let's see how hard hit our island has been.

Although they are not used by the international media in reporting on Taiwan tourism, the government does collect piles of stats on what is happening in the industry on the BuTourism website. The Sept tourist arrivals stats are not out yet, but the number of hotels/room data is out. Let's look at the devastation wrought by the loss of the stingiest, most unremunerative, most widely disliked tourists in Taiwan, Chinese group tourists.

The government collects data on legal and illegal hotels and rooms across Taiwan. Yes, that's right, it knows where all the illegal ones are, it just does nothing. Here are the overall data for January of 2016:

Estblmnts rooms operators
Legal 6153 24840 6805
Illegal 428 2499 462
Total 6581 27339 7267

You know what happened, of course. Catastrophe occurred, we know that because the media has assured us. Here are the September numbers:

Est Rooms Operators
Legal 6863 27743 7881
Illegal 440 2531 468
Total 7303 30274 8349

As anyone can see, the total number of establishments plummeted from 6581 to 7303, the total number of rooms collapsed from 27,339 to 30,274, and the total number of operators fell from 7267 to 8349.

O wait, did I write plummeted, collapsed, fell? Sorry, writing under the influence... of the international media.

I meant, grew, increased, rose. These tour establishment operators are so stupid, they didn't even know that they were in a state of alarming decline and expanded their facilities. These Taiwanese, don't they know their own country?

But... but... surely the rate of increase fell off... Total numbers for the same period from 2015:

Jan '15 5722 23814 5897
Sept '15 6263 25997 6787

Yup, the nine month period ending in September, 2016 saw a greater rise in total number of establishments and rooms than did the same period in September, 2015. The devastation was immense, clearly.

But... but... tourist areas were hard hit, right? Nantou, 2016:

est rooms ops
Jan 642 3120 673
Sept 675 3242 728

Nantou, 2015:

est rooms ops
Jan 615 3012 619
Sept 627 3050 648

This is so... heartbreaking. In 2015 in this period, Nantou added 12 establishments and 38 rooms. In 2016 in the same period it added just 33 establishments and 122 rooms. 

Sorry, I have to stop writing now. It's too painful to keep exploring this swath of destruction any further.

Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!


Carl said...

I look forward to the follow-up report on the cratered landscape of Taiwan's Hotel Room Occupancy Rates.

Anonymous said...

My business has been up about 30% over the last 8 months. The only noticeable difference was on my latest drive to Taidong along the coast. I probably only encountered a couple tour buses, whereas last year it would have been closer to a hundred, making the drive actually enjoyable this time around.

Tommy said...

I agree that the media's attention to this is way overblown, but this particular set of statistics could have other explanations. For example, it is possible that the rise in establishments and operators reflects decisions made before tourism leveled off. It is more likely that, when a downturn hits an investor will opt to complete a hotel that is 75 percent built than to stop construction. Likewise, operators might put much planning into a decision to enter an industry and bet that any Chinese obstructionism would be of short enough duration so as to not justify a change in strategy/direction.

I think pointing to the miniscule share of the economy that Chinese tour groups represent, as you have done previously, is a far more convincing line of argumentation. Not only do most media sources overlook this point, but those particular estimates are more impervious to criticism.

Genia said...

Do you think the Philippines' "divorce" from the U.S. has perhaps opened the possibility of U.S. considering Taiwan as military base? That would entail recognizing Taiwan as sovereign nation but Taiwan would be easier to deal with than the Philippines and its society more stable and better educated than the Philippines.

Michael Turton said...

Not only do most media sources overlook this point, but those particular estimates are more impervious to criticism.

Yes, they have other explanations. That's basically the point. The tourism industry as a whole isn't dependent on Chinese group tourists, it has many sources of revenue.

Michael Turton said...

Genia, no. No US bases will come here.

Michael Turton said...

I look forward to the follow-up report on the cratered landscape of Taiwan's Hotel Room Occupancy Rates.

Where is the data?

Anonymous said...

There is some hotel data here

Wonder why business traveler numbers are dropping.

Unknown said...

“Genia, no. No US bases will come here.” (Michael Turton, October 21, 2016 at 7:00 AM)

US boots are already on the ground, here. No conspicuous American in uniform, may be … However, how would you, Michael, explain away the following then?
Home> News> Taiwan
Gao Jin Su-mei (高金素梅) excoriates the government over 30 years of military procurement hostile to China.
首页 > 新闻 > 台湾

Here is a video grab of legislator Kao Chin roasting a cool PM Lin over an issue that goes back 30 years:

Why would legislator Gao Jin be calling PM Lin Quan on the carpet at the LY on Sept. 20, 2016 regarding the American radar base located on Mount Leshan (樂山), Taiwan. A US military outfit paid off the Taiwanese tax payer’s pocket to the tune of 41 billion US$?

Why would legislator Gao Jin complain bitterly about a US military outfit on Taiwan where American military regulations only apply. An American military base on Taiwan, off-limit to not only officials of the Taiwan authority of China -- i.e. Gao Jin and the PM -- but also to allegiance-impaired military personnel of the Taiwan authority of China?

Not that I nurse any surfeit of love for that cantankerous, China-hugging nasty. As an aside, why did Nasty not raise the issue when Nationalist Chinese Ma Ying-jiu and his KMT were in power?