Made in Taiwan

The industrial nation looks to attract tourists

By: Jamie Wetherbe

Long known as an industrial mecca, Taiwan has recently attempted to attract more than business ventures but tourists as well. In 2003, the Taiwan government rolled out a plan designed to double the number of tourists to 5 million by 2008, and the country is well on track to meeting its goal.

Last year, Taiwan hosted 3.4 million visitors, including about 400,000 Americans a 4 percent increase over 2004 although it’s difficult to say how many travelers were on business or visiting families versus strictly vacationers.

Deeply rooted in Chinese culture, Taiwan advertises itself to tourists as a taste of China in a friendlier, island-style atmosphere different from other major Asian cites. But instead of promoting itself as its own destination, Taiwan is targeting Asia-bound travelers over 55 years old who are looking for a four- to seven-day add-on trip.

A 90-minute flight from Hong Kong and about two hours from Japan, Korea and the Philippines, Taiwan offers a convenient gateway to other Asian destinations. Smaller than Maryland and Delaware combined, clients can see much of the country in a few days. In fact, a five-hour drive will take clients across the country, from north to south. A stay in Taiwan can also be a less-expensive option four-star hotels cost between $80-$100 a night, and multi-course meals are typically less than $10.
Taiwan is also tapping into the eco-tourism market. The country’s landscape includes 200 mountains rising to nearly 10,000 feet. Taiwan is home to the Taroko Gorge, one of Asia’s natural wonders, along with Kenting in the south, which attracts beach-goers. In addition, the country holds six national parks and 16 forest recreation areas.

A Day in Taipei
Most Taiwan travelers first stop in the country’s capital. While Taipei is home to 2.5 million of the country’s more than 23 million people, I found Taipei less touristy or crowded than other major Asian cities. Taipei offers unique architecture as buildings have to fit the island’s limited space as well as a blend of Taiwan’s past and present cultures. But before your clients explore the streets of Taipei, tell them to pay close attention to street signs. Lost travelers will have a difficult time finding someone who speaks English.

A good introduction to the city is from the observation deck at Taipei 101, the world’s tallest building. Measuring more than 1,600 feet, clients can pay about $10 to ride the world’s fastest elevator to the top. For an additional fee, a short self-guided audio tour is available, which gives a brief history of the city and points out some of Taipei’s highlights.

For clients who’d rather not go to great heights, the first several floors of the pagoda-style skyscraper, which opened last year, offer a variety of restaurants, shops and designer boutiques including Louis Vuitton and Dior.

Living History
For an understanding of Taiwan’s past, the National Palace Museum in Taipei, which recently underwent a $21 million renovation to mark its 80th anniversary, is a must-see.

Here, guests will find the most extensive collection of Chinese art in the world, including celadon bowls, bronzes from the 4th century B.C., jade carvings, landscape paintings and scrolls of intricate Chinese calligraphy.

While clients will enjoy perusing the museum’s 650,000 works, I recommend an English-speaking tour available daily at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., or by appointment. The knowledgeable guides really make the treasure’s come to life.

As for nightlife, Taipei is home to several markets where clients can wander for hours. The Shi-lin Night Market proved to be a strange array of pets for sale, clothes and trinkets next to food vendors selling everything from snake soup to “stinky tofu.”

For another authentic Taiwanese experience, visit one of the many Taoist or Buddhist landmarks. The country is home to some 10,000 temples, and many can be found near Taipei. Lucky clients might happen upon a religious ceremony making for a memorable photo op.

Taiwan Tourism Bureau


There’s no shortage of hotels in Taipei. If travelers prefer the royal treatment outside the city, book them a room at The Grand Hotel. This local landmark was designed with traditional palace-style architecture. While the outside of the property is indeed grand, the interior of the hotel hasn’t undergone a major renovation since 1998. Some of the appointments (like the carpeting, bedding and bathrooms) could use an update.
The hotel also offers a fitness center, restaurant and a business center with Internet access for a fee.
Room rates range from $168-$800 a night. The hotel also offers the Presidential Suite, with a design dedicated to former guest and president Dwight Eisenhower for $5,000 a night.
The Grand Hotel

If your clients prefer to stay downtown, the Grand Hyatt Taipei sits across the street from Taipei 101 and is a popular choice among business travelers.
The luxury hotel offers a business center, high-speed Internet in guestrooms and common areas, as well as several ballrooms, spa services and a fitness center.

Grand Hyatt Taipei


EVA Air recently increased its service to Taiwan from the West Coast. The airline now offers 17 flights a week from Los Angeles to Taipei and recently introduced a Seattle-Taipei route.
As of June, EVA added another flight from San Francisco to Taipei, offering 12 flights a week.
EVA offers four classes of service, including Evergreen Deluxe Class a hybrid between economy and business class.