Many sectors and industries across the world have struggled as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. From hospitality to education to the arts, vast numbers of people have lost money or even their jobs due to lack of business or virus prevention measures making work impossible. One sector to take a massive hit is tourism, as travel to the majority of places across the globe has become a difficult and, in some cases, out of the question. In Taiwan, where the virus has been handled as well as (if not better than) anywhere in the world, it has been no different. Border closures and strict quarantines played a huge part in protecting Taiwan from the virus, but they also resulted in tourism nearly drying up, with basically no international visitors entering the country since the first quarter of 2020. Tourist hot spots such as Taipei’s Yongkang Street and Jiufen have seen huge declines in visitors with many vendors struggling to stay afloat. (Read more: COVID-19 in Taiwan: The Year in Review)
As things stand, Taiwan has had 919 confirmed cases of COVID-19 on the island, with 9 of those cases passing away. The majority of Taiwan’s cases came from overseas, with the country enjoying an eight-month stretch between April 2020 and December 2020 without a locally transmitted case. A cluster of infections involving doctors and nurses at a hospital in Taoyuan has been Taiwan’s latest scare from the virus, but contact tracing and the quick testing and isolation of those potentially exposed has seemingly (for the time being at least) prevented another outbreak. However, we will have to wait until after Chinese New Year, when much of the nation are set to travel to visit loved ones, to see if it definitely has been contained.
Despite the virus still being a threat (albeit a controlled one) and Taiwan yet to announce an official vaccination plan, the powers that be are already planning the tourism industry’s recovery, having initially hoped last summer that international tourism may be able to resume in late 2020. On January 18 and 19, industry heads gathered (safely, of course) for the 2021 Post-Pandemic Tourism Transformation Forum (疫後觀光轉型論壇) to discuss the future of Taiwan’s tourism industry and how going forward it could not just be an industry, but its own brand.
2020 has seen Taiwan gain international recognition for its response to the virus outbreak and as a result it will be at the top of a lot of people’s lists as a place to visit once the world opens back up. However, Taiwan doesn’t want to be seen as a pandemic prevention destination, it wants to be seen as a tourism destination. Also, Taiwan’s tourism industry and those working under its umbrella need to be ready to welcome visitors once it is safe to do so. They must offer a memorable and enjoyable experience, but also one that is safe and provides customers with peace of mind. A worry-free experience where people don’t need to think about getting sick is fast becoming the future of travel. (Read more: 6 things you may have forgotten happened in Taiwan in 2020)
The COVID-19 pandemic has most definitely been a challenge for tourism in Taiwan, but the country falling under the global spotlight also means opportunity. More people than ever now know about Taiwan and (hopefully) more people than ever are going to want to visit Taiwan. With this in mind, Taiwan needs to be ready.