Dengue takes toll on Taiwan tourism

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TAIPEI: More than 80 percent of tourists planning to travel to south Taiwan’s Tainan have canceled their trips over fears of a dengue fever epidemic in the city, the local sightseeing association said.

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Taiwan has reported a record 8,677 dengue fever cases since May. On Friday, 617 new cases were reported, breaking the record for highest daily increase in cases, the island’s health authorities said on Saturday.

A total of 7,660 cases have been recorded in Tainan since May, accounting for nearly 90 percent of dengue fever cases across the island, according to the latest estimates.

Dengue-related deaths have increased to 44, 18 of which were confirmed to be caused by the disease, while the remaining 26 cases are still under investigation.

Tainan is a popular destination for camping and outdoor education. Schools in neighboring cities and counties had competed to book reservations for September and October. However, the city’s camping facilities have faced an unexpected slowdown as schools have stopped arranging such activities or prevented their students from coming to the city to camp.

Six schools with more than 2,000 students and teachers from Yunlin County have canceled their camping trips to Tainan. Schools in Taichung City and Changhua County have also called to cancel or postpone activities scheduled in October.

The city’s Tsou-Ma-Lai Farm, a popular recreational agriculture site, has received nearly 5,000 cancellations or postponement requests so far. An employee said the farm used to receive more than 1,000 visitors a day, but now only livestock can be seen around the facilities.

Before the dengue fever outbreak, Tainan Wanpi World Safari Zoo operated a dozen sightseeing buses every day to transport students to area attractions. But its manager said in a phone interview on Friday that at least 400 bus tours had been canceled over the next two months, which translates into a decrease of more than 2,000 tourists.

Even the city’s primary and middle schools have chosen to move outdoor activities inside or to other cities from September to November due to pressure from parents, dealing another huge blow to the city’s tourism industry.

The city government and related departments convened a meeting on Friday to come up with ways to save the tourism industry. But no concrete measures have been announced so far.

PNA/Xinhua

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