Taiwan is no longer one of the top ten travel destinations for Chinese tourists… and it seems like that fact is just fine for some of the locals, who have launched a snarky tourism ad campaign celebrating the absence of visitors from across the strait.
The series of mock tourism ad photos boasts beautifully shot backdrops from all around Taiwan. Typical phrases meant to inspire tourists from abroad to come and visit like — “All this awaits you!” — are absent, replaced with a single sardonic slogan in English — “Welcome to Taiwan, without Chinese!”
For good measure, the parody ads also include some phrases in Chinese like: “No more trouble caused by Chinese tourists, A carefree journey begins here” and “Without Chinese tourists, it’s now possibly to relax in the most popular destinations.”
Unsurprisingly, the ads have angered Chinese netizens after going viral online. Taiwan’s Tourism Bureau has responded by strongly criticizing the advertisements.
“People who discriminate against mainland Chinese tourists lack tolerance of diversity, and they also tend to discriminate against people from other cultures and social classes,” the bureau said, adding that “Taiwan certainly welcomes mainland Chinese tourists.”
However, lately, the island has been welcoming fewer and fewer of them. United Daily News reports that two major Chinese travel websites recently released separate studies on where Chinese tourists are traveling to. Taiwan didn’t make the top 10 on either list after ranking 7th last year.
It’s hard to know how trustworthy either of these studies are, but Lai Chang-yi, director of Taiwan’s General Chamber of Commerce, did admit that the number of mainland tourists to Taiwan has fallen by 20% since June, meaning hard times for local business owners, The News Lens reports. In 2015, a record 4.1 million tourists visited the island, contributing an estimated NT$230 billion ($7.1 billion) to the Taiwanese economy.
Meanwhile, it’s less difficult to pin down where this precipitous drop in cross-strait tourism is coming from, considering the increasingly tense relations between Taipei and Beijing that began after new Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen was elected in January and took office in May.
To express its profound discontent at Taiwan’s new leadership — particularly Tsai’s unwillingness to formally accept the “1992 Consensus,” an understanding of sorts that both the PRC and the ROC are part of the same China — Beijing began cutting the number of its citizens allowed to travel to Taiwan each month, with the goal of eventually reducing the number of Taiwan-bound mainlanders by half by the end of the year.
Tsai’s predecessor, Ma Ying-jeou, spent much of his presidency forging closer relations with the mainland. By 2012, Taiwan was even allowing independent travelers from the mainland to visit for the first time in more than six decades. While this influx of mainland tourists has been good for the economy, its side-effects have upset some locals. Last year, one tourist town on the southwestern edge of the island even threatened to seal itself off from mainland visitors.
In the end, all of this just gives the two sides of the strait more things to apologize to each other for.
By Robin Winship
[Images via My Angel News]