What you need to know
Government officials in Taiwan weigh the competing interests of local vendors and disease prevention in their Labor Day tourism messaging.
A recent report from Taiwan’s Central Bank points out that tourism has been severely diminished by Covid-19. According to the latest statistics, inbound visitors during this year's first season are over 1.6 million less than the same season of last year, which could mean an NT $57 billion loss in tourism revenue.
Although international tourists are still not allowed to travel to Taiwan, the country's tourism industry and businesses are hoping that the Labor Day weekend holiday will see a revival of domestic tourism.
“Many of us have been struggling and cooperating with pandemic prevention policies and managed to survive until May. In addition, the virus crisis has been mitigated significantly. We really hope that the long weekend can increase business,” said Lu Yu-you (盧育佑), Chairman of Tamsui Shopping District Culture and Tourism Society (淡水商圈文化觀光協會).
Director of Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC), Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) declared that the CECC would not send out travel warning text messages, as in the lead up to Tomb Sweeping Day. Instead, the CECC has launched a new crowd warning function on the Ministry of Transportation and Communications’ 1968 app.
Chen said that there is no problem going out if the regular disease prevention guidance including wearing masks and maintaining social distance is followed. He said that during the Labor Day weekend, people can relax a bit but should not be complacent.
In a committee meeting at the Legislative Yuan on April 29, Chen proclaimed that Taiwan is now capable of containing the spread of disease when a confirmed case appears and responding to every possible emergency.
"Taiwan is among the few countries where people can maintain a normal life. This is also what we encourage people to do during the Labor Day long weekend,” said Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌).
It appears that the Taiwanese government does not intend to discourage domestic tourism. Meanwhile, it is not ready to encourage it either. Local governments also do not have consistent messaging.
The Department of Health of Kaohsiung City Government made posters to ask people to stay at home while Tainan Mayor Huang Wei-che (黃偉哲) announced that Tainan is ready for tourists and guaranteed that precautions would be properly taken during the long weekend.
This also shows that the central government has not yet made a precise policy decision or demonstrated a clear attitude for local governments to adopt.
On the first day of the long weekend, tourists reportedly came back to sightseeing spots along with department stores and night markets all over the whole country.
The reappearance of the crowds has occurred alongside worries and criticisms from netizens, just as during the Tomb Sweeping holiday in early April.
Nevertheless, some sightseeing spot vendors were complaining that there were not as many tourists during Labor Day holiday as reported by the press. For example, tourists in Tainan were only a third of what they were on Tomb Sweeping Day on the first day of Labor Day holiday.
As the impact of Covid-19 on tourism and the economy is now global, Taiwan will have to remain vigilant despite its success. Finding a balance between economic development and epidemic prevention is Taiwan's urgent work at the moment.
TNL Editor: Nicholas Haggerty (@thenewslensintl)
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