TAIPEI, Taiwan - The Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) is planning to convert selected tourist factories around Taiwan into destinations for foreign visitors, hoping to capitalize on the growing number of tourists from abroad who visit the island.
Jason Chen, an official with the Industrial Technology Research Institute who is in charge of the project, said tourist factories in Taiwan cater mainly to local tourists and attract only a limited number of overseas visitors.
Chen said his team will screen existing tourist factories, choose at least one each in northern, central and southern Taiwan, and help them develop into tourist spots for international visitors.
"Planning for the related screening system should be complete by the end of the year," he said.
Chen's team will assess whether existing factories are suitable to be developed into international tourist factories based on their sizes and whether their facility is bilingual.
He expressed the hope that international tourist factories could attract between 300,000 and 400,000 foreign visitors per year in the initial stage, up from the fewer than 100,000 a year that tourist factories draw at present.
"We will target Asian visitors, especially Japanese and South Korean visitors," he said.
The Ministry of Economic Affairs has assisted several old-economy businesses in repositioning themselves as tourist factories since 2003 amid Taiwan's changing industrial structure.
According to the ministry, it has provided guidance to 136 manufacturers on becoming tourist factories, with 106 of them having started operations.
Riding the rapid growth of domestic tourism, the tourist factories attracted 6.5 million visitors last year and generated NT$1.63 billion in revenues.
They are expected to draw more than 10 million visitors this year and generate NT$2 billion in revenues.
On which factories are suitable to be converted into tourist factories, Chen said those making food items, which account for 60 percent of the total, have the highest rate of success because their products are more accessible and acceptable to consumers.
Taiyen Co. turned its plant in Miaoli County into a tourist factory last year, making it the only tourist factory that combines high-tech salt production and education in Taiwan.
Taiyen estimated that the plant will attract 500,000 visitors this year and 1 million next year.
Tailloon Ballons Co. said its Taiwan Balloons Museum in Taichung, is an example of a facility that combines tourism with an old-economy business.
The museum's executive director, You Wan-yu, said the company has sizable exports, but a lot of people may not know that there is a factory in Taiwan producing balloons.
You said its tourist factory has enabled people to become familiar with its brand and helped promote the sales of balloons.