By Stephanie Chao, the Eye on Taiwan staff writer
Taiwan Railway Administration’s (TRA) first “tourism-only” Puyuma express train arrived at Hualien on Thursday, as part of the government’s efforts to boost tourism after a powerful earthquake hit the eastern city last month, killing 17 people and injuring more than 270 others.
The earthquake shook up the local tourism as the main quake and a spate of aftershocks rocked Hualien before the Chinese New Year holidays, scaring away holiday-makers.
As an addition to the current number of fleets in operation, the first Puyuma train carried 48 domestic and international tourists, who were scheduled tol tour Hualien for two days and one night.
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The tourism-only fleet, which includes train ticket and hotel accommodation, will run until June 29.
Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Hsiao Bi-khim, who masterminded the tourism package, said the TRA will provide one “tourism-only” Puyuma train to and from Hualien daily during this period.
The tourism-only fleet departs from Taipei at 8:57 a.m. and arrives at Hualien at 11:08 a.m. For the returning train, the train leaves Hualien at 5:30 p.m. and arrives at Taipei at 7:41 p.m.
Hotel operators in Hualien will also help tourists book the train tickets if requested, according to the TRA.
Local media reports quoted operator Cheng Ming-kang as saying that the 48 tourists were staying at “Taroko Village Hotel for the 2-day-1-night package which includes trips to popular tourist attractions such as the Taroko Gorge and Baiyang Trail.
At just NT$2,000 for each person, Cheng admitted that the package was actually a profit loss, but he said it was just an effort to help attract tourists to Hualien. He said he believes other operators would draw up more travel packages to give the local tourism a leg up.
A tourist from Taichung, Lee Zhi-lan, told United Daily News this trip was her second trip to Hualien after the earthquake. She said she and 11 friends from all over Taiwan and Singapore joined this tour.
“Hualien is a beautiful place, and it’s definitely not flailing in distress,” Lee said, urging more people to visit Hualien to experience its beauty.