Taiwan Update

For most travelers from the U.S., Taiwan remains primarily a business destination, but this doesn't mean leisure activities are out of the question. Because Taiwan is a long-haul destination, business travelers—especially those accompanied by their families—might be seeking a day or two of relaxation before they return home.

"Taiwan is definitely looking to educate U.S. agents," says Janice She-jen Lai, director general of the Tourism Bureau, Ministry of Transportation and Communications, Taiwan.

"We're losing some of our business travelers to mainland China, so we want to make up the difference with increasing leisure visits." In 2006, arrivals to Taiwan increased by seven percent for a total of 3.5 million. U.S. visitors accounted for 43,000 of this figure.

New Airlift; High-Speed Rail; Top Hotels

This past month, United Airlines inaugurated a daily flight from San Francisco to Taipei. The Taipei-San Francisco route will be served by Boeing 777s. United originally launched the Taipei-San Francisco route in 1987 but suspended service in 2003 because of the outbreak of SARS in east Asia. The carrier decided to resume the route after assessment confirmed market demand.

In the year to come, Taiwan's Tourism Bureau will focus its promotional efforts on getting the message out about the country's natural beauty; special-interest travel to Taiwan, with an emphasis on eco-tourism and the country's hot springs; and cities along the high-speed train route.

Capable of traveling at speeds of up to 180 miles an hour, the Taiwan High Speed Rail runs 208 miles north to south along the western corridor of the country. Another plus to train travel is the convenience of centrally located rail stations, as opposed to airports that are some distance from both cities. It isn't necessary to purchase tickets in advance, announcements are in English, and there is ample room for luggage in racks above the seats.

Major hotels in Taipei include the Sheraton Taipei Hotel (886-2-2321-5511, sheraton@sheraton-taipei.com) and the Grand Hyatt Taipei (886-2-2720-1234, grandhyatttaipei@hyattintl.com). In Kaohsiung, the standout hotel is The Splendor Kaohsiung (0809-085-085).

Family-Friendly Attractions

Taipei is a bustling city, which by itself is an attraction. Even so, there are several sites perfect for families with children.

 The Taipei 101 skyscraper

Taiwan Storyland in Taipei offers exhibits of pre-World War II Taiwan, recreating a barbershop, pharmacy, and classroom. There are also low-tech games of chance and skill as well as a number of restaurants.

The TaipeiNational Palace Museum houses the largest collection of Chinese artifacts and artwork in the world. Kids will enjoy the intricate carvings, as well as the museums signature piece, a delicately carved jade cabbage. Avoid going on a Saturday, when crowds fill the exhibit halls.

The whole family will enjoy a trip up to the observation deck of the 101-story Taipei 101 for a birds-eye view of the city. The elevators, which travel at 37.5 mph, are the fastest in the world.

If your clients have some flexibility in their dates of travel, they may choose to travel during a major festival for added value. The Taiwan Lantern Festival is held in March in cities throughout the country. The festival consists of colorful themed lantern displays and live performances. The annual Yanshuei Fireworks Festival is also held in March, in the southern town of Yanshuei. Also called the Beehive Rockets Festival, this is an event in which participants in motorcycle helmets and padded clothing are bombarded with rockets; definitely not for little kids, but teenagers would love it.