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Hualien could lose NT$5.3 billion in April tourism income after quake

04/08/2024 04:29 PM
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Emergency vehicles pass by the archway marking the Provincial Highway No. 8 in National Taroko Park in Hualien County Friday. CNA photo April 5, 2024
Emergency vehicles pass by the archway marking the Provincial Highway No. 8 in National Taroko Park in Hualien County Friday. CNA photo April 5, 2024

Taipei, April 8 (CNA) The tourism industry in Hualien is forecast to suffer losses of approximately NT$5.3 billion (US$166 million) in April following a powerful earthquake off the coast of the eastern Taiwan county last week, according to the Hualien County Tourism Association.

Speaking with CNA on Sunday, Chen Yi-feng (陳義豐), head of the tourism association, said that the fatal temblor has severely impacted Hualien's tourism industry, estimating that the hotel booking rate for April is likely to drop to less than 10 percent.

Chen said the association previously estimated about 60 percent of hotel rooms in Hualien would be booked in April but the earthquake has ruined the holiday mood of many potential visitors during the four-day Tomb Sweeping Festival over the weekend, dragging down the booking rate for the month.

On the morning of April 3, a magnitude 7.2 earthquake struck off the coast of Hualien County, with its epicenter located in the Pacific Ocean, 25.0 kilometers south-southeast of Hualien County Hall, at a depth of 15.5 km. It is the largest earthquake to hit Taiwan in nearly 25 years.

The temblor's intensity, which gauges the actual effect of a seismic event, was highest in Hualien, where it measured a 6+ on Taiwan's 7-tier intensity scale, resulting in building collapses and landslides that has killed 13 and injured 1,145, with six still missing.

A search and rescue drone locates tourists trapped in the Tunnel of Nine Turns on Thursday. Photo courtesy of Central Emergency Operation Center April 4, 2024
A search and rescue drone locates tourists trapped in the Tunnel of Nine Turns on Thursday. Photo courtesy of Central Emergency Operation Center April 4, 2024

Citing statistics released by the central government's tourism authority, Chen said that each tourist who stayed in a hotel in Hualien for one night or longer in 2022 spent an average of NT$5,736 in 2022.

Based on the figure and a booking rate of about 60 percent, the roughly 17,000 hotel rooms in the county could be expected to generate NT$5.3 billion in income in April.

However, following the quake, the booking rate is forecast to fall to less than 10 percent in April, causing the expected NT$5.3 billion income to evaporate, Chen said.

Among popular hotels in Hualien, upscale Silks Place Taroko, run by Formosa International Hotels Corp., has announced the suspension of operations until April 30, citing the massive impact of the earthquake.

Silks Place Toroko has become the hub of rescue efforts in the area, providing accommodation for search and rescue workers and even quake victims.

Just Sleep Hualien, another hotel run by Formosa International Hotels, said its building, which is located on Zhongzheng Road in downtown Hualien City, remained unscathed despite the temblor, but its occupancy rate fell to 60 percent during the Tomb Sweeping Festival holiday from April 4-7, down from the standard 80 percent.

Even worse, bookings for April as a whole are expected to fall to about 30 percent from the previous estimate of 60 percent, Just Sleep Hualien said.

Search and rescue team members try to reclaim bodies of two earthquake victims buried in the rocks in the Taroko Gorge in Hualien County on Friday. Photo courtesy of the search and rescue team April 5, 2024
Search and rescue team members try to reclaim bodies of two earthquake victims buried in the rocks in the Taroko Gorge in Hualien County on Friday. Photo courtesy of the search and rescue team April 5, 2024

Azure Hotel, another popular hotel in Hualien due to its downtown location, has decided to suspend operations until June 30 as the building needs to be structurally reinforced after the earthquake.

For its part, Chateau De Chine Hualien has been shut down as the operator -- LDC Hotels & Resorts -- launched rebuilding work after the temblor.

Chen said he hopes the central government will provide more relief funds to the hard hit tourism industry in Hualien and dole out subsidies to tourists to encourage them to visit the county.

In addition, the association asked Taiwan Railway to provide hotel operators and travel agencies with reserved seats especially for their customers as an incentive to further encourage them to visit Hualien, he added.

(By Jiang Ming-yan and Frances Huang)

Enditem/AW

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