Foreign travelers will be more welcomed and embraced. Taiwan tourism has seen a significant rise in travelers from Mainland China above all other regions because of the government’s policy to focus on business development with the Mainland for the past 8 years. Tsai’s new administration will complete the further opening of Taiwan to outsiders by focusing on business development with the rest of Southeast Asia and the United States, in addition to the already growing inbound visits from Japan and S. Korea. Also, Taiwan should become an even more attractive place for entrepreneurs, particularly in the service industry. For instance, Mume in Taipei is just one of a growing number of restaurants helmed by international chefs who came to Taiwan specifically because of the availability of fresh quality produce. This cohesion of foreign talent and local resources will push Taiwan to become more global, which makes it even easier to serve international tourists.
Access to the rest of Taiwan will become easier. The new administration has strong support throughout all of Taiwan, not just in the North where Taipei is located. This means the central, eastern, and southern part of Taiwan will all benefit from tourism initiatives. The high-speed rail already transports a traveler from North to South in 2 hours with stops in major cities. Now making the interior experiences even more accessible. The rest of Taiwan still retains its old time charm, people are hospitable, and life is more laid back. Parts of it are also simply stunning. This opens the door for an altogether different type of leisure experience than what you can get in Taipei — one that is about discovery. Also, for years people have been developing inns, called minsu (民宿), serving domestic travelers, particularly Taipei people looking to get away from the city. These would be ready, as they already are in places like Yilan, for international travelers seeking to get out of Taipei. Furthermore, with Airbnb, there is a wide range of accommodation choices to fit budgets of all types. Finally, airports outside Taipei and Taoyuan are now accepting international flights; direct international access to the rest of Taiwan makes those destinations even more attractive.
Starting with restauranteurs, young entrepreneurs will create more surprisingly delightful experiences. Everyone talks about how good the food is in Taiwan, but the food capital of Taiwan isn’t even in Taipei, where most travelers go — it’s arguably in either Tainan or Taichung, depending on the day of the week. Young Taiwanese chefs who found Taipei too expensive to live have already moved south where there is better access to fresh produce (farm to table is often a scooter ride) and lower cost for everything. But it isn’t all snacks and night market food that happens in the south. Le Moût, one of Asia’s 50 Top Restaurants, is located in Taichung, where the award-winning chef, Lanshu Chen, age 35, lives and works. Food innovation is one part of the Taiwan experience. On the cultural side, there will more more to do, with less language barriers. Whether it’s visiting one of the numerous temples in any city, or hanging out with the aborigines in the mountains, or going scuba diving off any of the coasts, there’s plenty to do. Tainan is already spearheading discussions that would make English the second language, with more cities to follow. Entrepreneurialism and hospitality are both in the blood of Taiwanese people, with more incoming tourists, expect to see service innovations go way beyond food.
Technology will play a big role to remove barriers for travelers. Taiwan’s tech sector languished in the last 5 years to become an also-ran. This is an issue that all political parties recognize and the revitalization of Taiwan’s tech sector will be a key focus for not just the new administration, but for all Taiwanese. Look for specialized gadgets with new applications in the IoT and mobile space to wow travelers. Because Taiwan supplied the majority of semi-conductors to the world for a long time, it has an advantage in constructing solutions with hardware. But that’s changing. There’s a new crop of talent who are software oriented; they develop on popular platforms and devices that are already in consumer hands— they are in small startups all over Taiwan. But a more immediate new new thing: look for VR and AR to play big roles. Garmin has already released an AR headset, Varia, for serious cyclists that could become a must-have (of course you could end up cycling on a Giant bike, whose HQ is in Taichung). HTC’s VR solution, the Vive, is hotly anticipated and due to arrive this Spring; VR is such a big initiative that HTC has bet its future on VR. Taiwan has all the technical resources and talent to ensure that a traveler never gets lost, never loses connectivity, and is never uninformed. When it gets there, Taiwan will become a exemplar travel destination for the 21st century.
The Taiwan experience will become more long-tail and higher quality. Right now, Taiwan is a steal, and everyone who comes here knows that. As more people discover Taiwan, particularly the south, prices will inevitably increase. But the variety and quality will also increase along with the cost, as it already has in Taipei. Why? Because with a population of 23 million (pretty much the same population as Australia), Taiwanese businesspeople know that to succeed they have to differentiate. A fundamental characteristic of capitalism is a competitive marketplace, and for visitors to Taiwan, this is a good thing — they’ll be able to find products and services that cater to their personal niche — democracy and capitalism working hand in hand to benefit the end consumers.
Also, serving a more diverse group of travelers will change the taste of Taiwanese travelers. The outbound numbers should increase, moving beyond traditional destinations like China, Japan, and South Korea into Southeast Asia.
I’m going to end this article on a personal note. Recently, my co-Founder, George, visited with his mom, Carol, who is in her 70s, and his son, Charlie, who just turned 8. The three generations, Boomer, Gen X, and iGen, loved it here. Here’s a video that captures how surprised and delighted they were, as Americans, visiting this place that’s completely foreign to them, and falling in love with it. This is what I called the Taiwan Effect.
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