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Lunch with Taitung Magistrate Yao

The ECCT hosted a Premium Event lunch with the Taitung County Magistrate April Yao (Ching-ling). At the event, Magistrate Yao gave a presentation in which she spoke about embracing foreign travellers, promoting the industries of Taitung and sharing the core values of Taitung's brand and progressive industries and services, among other topics.

Magistrate Yao's approach to development is a departure from the traditional focus on industry adopted by most of Taiwan's mayors. Instead, she has eschewed the building of science and industry parks in favour of supporting the development of sustainable industries, such as organic agriculture and tourism.

Magistrate Yao's administration is working to preserve and promote Taitung's rich marine life, natural coastal landscape, indigenous culture and slow lifestyle, which have made the area one of Taiwan's most popular tourist destinations.

With the ocean to the east and high mountains in the west, Taitung has a rich ecology and variety of high quality agricultural produce, including rice, tea, daylilies, sugar apples, smoked skipjack tuna and marlin.

Taitung County occupies a tenth of Taiwan's land mass but is home to only 1% of the population, of which 35% belong to one of seven of Taiwan's indigenous groups. The county is also home to Taiwan's largest and oldest prehistoric cultural sites.

Given the lack of industry, Taitung also has Taiwan's cleanest air quality, with the lowest average PM2.5 levels.

Taitung held the world's only hot air balloon festival this year, owing to cancellations in other parts of the world due to the coronavirus pandemic. This year's festival was held for 51 days over the summer. According to Yao, it attracted over 1.2 million visitors and generated revenue of over €80 million.

The county government has been supporting the development of the industry's balloon facilities and flight base. Taitung is the only place in Taiwan that offers professional hot air balloon pilot training and balloon flights all year round.

Taitung is also a surfer's paradise. The county has been promoting professional surfing since 2011. Last year, the county hosted the World Longboard Championship, the World Junior Championship and the QS3000 Men's Qualifier. According to Yao, the events attracted 340 foreign competitors, were broadcast to 160,000 viewers, generated more than 1,285 reports in global media and reached over 14.2 million people on social media.  

Taitung's offshore islands, Green Island and Orchid Island are popular destinations for diving given clear water with visibility up to 40 metres.

The pristine environment in the county, which includes a large lake shaped like a swimming pool that is fed by natural springs, make the area ideal for hosting triathlons (combining marathons, swimming and cycling). According to Yao 20 athletics competitions are hosted annually.

Taitung has been recognised internationally and was voted one of the seven most welcoming places on earth by in 2020.

While Yao's administration is not promoting traditional industry, it is promoting Taitung as an ideal place to set up a branch office given affordable property prices, free Wi-Fi and the pristine living environment.

In terms of organic agriculture, the government is helping local farmers to become certified as organic producers as well as to market and promote their produce. The government is even helping to develop the niche essential oil industry and setting up an organic processing plant.

In cooperation with indigenous communities, the government is assisting to promote indigenous cuisine and offering management training.   

As part of its efforts to promote sustainable and responsible tourism, the government arranges working holiday programmes in indigenous communities for visitors from all over the region to live and work in the communities.

Several private operators arrange short stays for visitors to enjoy an immersive slow lifestyle experience in Taitung, as an antidote to the rat race and concrete jungles of other cities in Taiwan.