Tourism in eastern Taiwan hit hard by last week’s deadly earthquake

China 24

Taiwan has become an increasingly popular tourist destination for people from the Chinese Mainland. But the deadly earthquake in Hualien last week could slow things down. It’s a big worry for those who rely on tourism for their livelihoods.

CGTN’s Rian Maelzer reports from Hualien.
Follow Rian Maelzer on Twitter @rdamael

The Taroko Gorge, spectacular scenery, is forged by seismic upheaval. Those same seismic forces have now driven away the tourists who would usually be thronging this place. They come to see the wildlife, the cliffs and turquoise ocean and dramatic rock formations, as well aboriginal culture. Some, though, have decided to push ahead with their holidays there having already booked their flights and hotels.

“We’re fine about it,” a tourist from Guangdong said. “It’s just last night when we were at the hotel we were a little bit afraid. The old people didn’t sleep well. We all felt aftershocks.”

But it’s clear from the absence of tour buses and crowds at Hualien’s night market that tourism has taken a serious hit. People in the hospitality industry blame sensationalist reporting by the local media for scaring away tourists. They said the reports have made it seem as if the whole of Hualien is some kind of disaster zone.

“In fact the earthquake did not affect Hualien so much,” Lo Liping, a travel agent said. “All the tourist attractions are intact, and there are just a few buildings that are affected. It’s such a shame if some misleading reports are affecting tourism.”

While the gorge was completely unaffected and the city of Hualien has bounced back rapidly from the quake, it will take longer for tourism industry to recover.

“What we worry about is that the impact of an earthquake is not like a typhoon,” Po Huang, a hotel marketing supervisor said. “A typhoon affects tourism and business for three to four days. The impact of an earthquake can last half a year, a year, or even longer.”

People there said what would help Hualien the most in the aftermath of the quake is for the tourists to return as soon as possible.