“To travel from Makati City to other cities in Manila, it takes about an hour, sometimes two with [heavy]traffic. In this same time, you would have already arrived in Taipei.”
This was the very convincing point Taiwanese Ambassador to the Philippines and Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) head Gary Song-Huann Lin made to entice more Filipinos to travel to his country.
On February 11, the diplomat led the “2015 Taiwan Tourism Promotion Workshop” at the Century Park Hotel in Manila that gathered over 30 delegates from various Taiwan tourism industries like hotels and resorts, airlines and other destinations. The goal of the workshop was to prepare the representatives who were behind the Taiwan Pavilion at the Philippines Travel Tour Expo over the weekend at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City.
Expressing that Taiwan has been “unnoticed” by Filipinos despite its proximity, Lin was positive it would drum up the attention and interest the island deserves at the expo.
“I am optimistic that if our two countries are determined to work together in partnership to promote tourism, the tourism sectors of both our countries will be beneficial and become prosperous in the foreseeable future,” he explained.
At the Taiwan Pavilion organized by the Taiwan Tourism Bureau, not only tourism events like the upcoming Lantern Festival were highlighted but also shopping, food, indigenous people, and local practices like flower appreciation, among many others.
Moreover, the bureau also prepared and distributed the 2015 Taiwan Visit handbook filled with various travel information from accommodation to transportation. It also gives discounts from participating hotels, restaurants, amusement parks and souvenir shops.
The visiting tour operators, including the Taiwan Leisure Farms Development Community, further offered themed package tours for Filipinos at the expo.
Love for travel
At the tourism workshop, Ambassador Lin revealed his personal love for travel. “I have visited 50 countries for more than 25 years—that’s almost half of my life,” he noted.
He had been to America, Europe, Africa and even the Caribbean. Yet with all that he had seen throughout the world, he still considers his country as the “Treasure Island,” in reference to the famous book by author Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson.
To elaborate, the ambassador presented a number of reasons. He began, “Much has been said about Taiwan’s famous destinations such as the Taipei 101, which was once the tallest building in the world, or the National Palace Museum, which houses more than 700,000 artifacts and artworks.”
There is also good food accessible to all whether at a street stall or high-end restaurants. “No Chinese restaurant in Manila can compete with Taiwan’s,” he proudly added.
There are also efficient transportation systems like the MRT, as well as security to assure even young ladies to safely walk the streets alone at midnight.
Lin also cited the recent ranking of Lonely Planet, the world’s largest travel book publisher, lisitng Taiwan as one of the “10 Best Value Destinations for 2015.”
Quoting the report, he said: “Taiwan delivers great all around value. Taipei is significantly cheaper than Hong Kong, Seoul and Tokyo . . . ”
More importantly, Lin also shared how the Taiwanese and Filipinos share similar traits. “I strongly recommend Filipino tourists visiting Taiwan to observe and experience how friendly, energetic, optimistic, generous, peace-loving and kind the Taiwan people are.”
He continued, “In short, Taiwan’s unique fusion and diverse cultures, good food, good shopping, night markets, excellent culture, wonderful museums, exciting city life, and well-developed hospitality industry altogether always make our Filipino friends feel ‘happy to come, reluctant to leave.’”
Besides promoting Taiwan to Filipinos, Lin also promised that he would also serve “as the ambassador of the Philippines to the Taiwanese.”
He pointed out that in 2014, there were 133,583 Taiwan nationals who visited the Philippines, while 136,978 Filipinos visited Taiwan. While he admitted that these numbers went down because of “a fishing row” between the two nations, he believed the numbers would increase anew this year.
He proudly announced that Philippine Airlines had opened direct flights between Taipei to Palawan on February 13 to allow Taiwanese tourists to easily explore the island destination.
He also urged the Philippine government to follow the USA and Australia in implementing the Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) Scheme for his people. The ETA scheme allows travelers to apply for visa online, and receive online confirmation within three to five working days.
“It is my task to promote two-way tourism and interaction between Taiwan and the Philippines,” Ambassador Lin ended.