By Stephanie Chao, the Eye on Taiwan staff writer
The sharp reduction of the number of mainland Chinese tourists plus outrageously expensive prices has battered the businesses in Kenting, a famous Taiwan’s beach resort town in the southernmost of the island, with all hotels experiencing a downturn in business.
Hotel reservations in this once highly popular tourist spot are reported to be at their worst, local news media said on Tuesday.
Traditionally, hotels and bed and breakfast accommodations usually see full bookings in the approach of the Lunar Chinese New Year holiday, which begin from Feb 15-20. But up until now, there is only 70% of the booking rate, the media reports said.
Other businesses in Kenting, especially restaurants and souvenior stores, have likened the situation to the time when Taiwan was ravaged by severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2003 when tourist business tumbling due to fear of the epidemic.
According to visitor figures compiled by Kenting National Park Headquarters, Hengchun Peninsula saw 4.3 million visitors last year, a drop of 1.2 million compared with the year before (5.5 million).
One of the major reasons leading to the “avalanche-like” fall of tourist figures is the sharp reduction in the number of mainland Chinese tourists, the reports said.
Among the top ten tourist attractions that have suffered the most, Kenting is reported to have the worst hit with the visitor rate plunging to 59% from a high of 93%, local media outlets reported.
Local Chinese-language China Times reported that reservations of big-name hotels in Kenting — Howard Beach Resort Kenting, Caesar Park Kenting, and Chataeu Beach Resort, to name a few — for the Lunar Chinese New Year holiday have dropped to 60 or 70%.
Even bed and breakfast owners have seen their business decline sharply.
A Howard Beach Resort Kenting general manager told cable Set TV news network that the controversial new labor law and pension reforms that cut down the benefits of some people, and sour relations between Taiwan and mainland China were to blame for the drop in tourist numbers.
The hotel will offer discounts for visitors in this period and provide holiday-related activities or tour packages to boost incentive, the manager said.
Kenting Maldives Hotel Chairman Chang Rong-nan said room bookings for the Chinese New Year was “terrible,” with only 10 to 20% full so far.
He said such a low reservation rate was unprecedented compared to previous holidays around the same time.
Negative reports about the unreasonably high prices asked by some restaurant and shop owners had seriously damaged the tourism image of Kenting, which resulted in the sharp drop in visitors, Chang said.
Low airfares offered by budget airlines also attributed to the drop as local tourists chose to travel abroad after finding that it was even cheaper to fly to other countries for holidays.