Poll highlights tourism hotspots


The East Rift Valley was determined to be vacationers’ favorite spot, but Beitou Cape and Turtle Island were the most visited because of their proximity to cities.

When Robert Chen (程安賢) came back to Taiwan two years ago after living in the US for 26 years, he did not expect Taiwan would be so beautiful — until his four-day vacation in the Hualien-Taitung area last week.

“Some of the scenery was breathtaking. Just like from a postcard,” the 32-year old computer engineer said.

Chen was not alone in his high praise for the area. A National Science Council-sponsored study made public yesterday showed that the East Rift Valley National Scenic Area in the Hualien-Taitung area was the No. 1 tourist destination among Taiwanese.

The research, conducted by National Taiwan University’s Department of Horticulture Professor Lin Yen-chou (林晏州), compared 13 national scenic locations and surveyed 374 people on their travel habits and factors they took into account when choosing a place to visit in Taiwan.

Top factors included overall cost, commuting time and the purpose of the trip.

Lin’s study showed a strong positive correlation between commute time and the popularity of a destination. Long commute time kept tourists from visiting or returning to a destination, he said.

Although the East Rift Valley — a long, narrow valley flanked by the Central Mountain range to the west and the Coastal Mountain range in the east — was the favorite destination, the Northeast Coast National Scenic Area, which includes popular locations such as the Beitou Cape and Turtle Island, was the most frequently visited because of its proximity to the cities, he said.

“There is no place like the east coast of Taiwan because of its unique landscape. People there were also very friendly and their hospitality made a big difference in my trip,” Chen said, adding that his favorite activity was cycling at the Mataian Wetland Ecological Park.

Kong Chien-ming (龔建民), a 28 year-old student, described the Hualien scenery as “God’s own handiwork.”

“I think all foreigners should go to Taroko Gorge at least once while they are in Taiwan to experience the majestic scenery,” he said, likening the area to Arizona’s Grand Canyon.

One downfall about these destinations, Chen said, was the lack of clear English signs and descriptions.

“The scenery is beautiful, but I think it would have a bigger impact on foreigners if they knew what they are looking at. It would be nice to know the history of the area,” he said.