Hot spring festival kicks off in Pingtung County
Taiwan kicked off its annual hot spring festival on Friday in one of the island’s four main hot spring areas Sichongxi, Pingtung County as the government and industry officials hope that the four-monthlong fair celebrated across the country will boost tourism.
Despite its relatively small size, Taiwan has one of the highest concentrations and greatest variety of thermal springs in the world, due to its location next to an oceanic trench and volcanic system in a tectonic collision zone.
There are more than 100 thermal springs here, ranging from hot springs to cold springs, mud springs, and seabed hot springs.
The Japanese colonial rulers developed Taiwan’s hot springs in the early 1900s and brought with them Japan’s onsen culture of spring soaking. Although the hot spring culture was not promoted after the Republic of China began governing Taiwan in 1945, the government began promoting hot springs in 1999, seeing it as a way to attract domestic and overseas tourists.
It is hoped that the annual festival — called the Taiwan Hot Spring & Fine Cuisine Carnival — will help promote a total of 19 famed hot spring areas in Taiwan — including Wulai in New Taipei City and Guguan in Taichung City — said David Hsieh, director general of the Tourism Bureau on Friday.
“Hot springs have become a major tourism product we want to sell to the world,” Hsieh said during the inauguration ceremony.
To better appeal to foreign tourists, the tourism bureau said, it has given out for the first time a total of 30,000 coupons for hot spring soaks to foreign independent travelers at travel fairs overseas.
Those presenting the tickets could enjoy free access to public pools at major hot spring areas across Taiwan during the festival, the bureau said.
It is hoped that the coupons will help entice foreigners to travel to Taiwan.
“We hope that in the future, every foreign tourist who comes to Taiwan can try our hot spring,” said Chang Jung-nan, chairman of the Hot Spring Tourism Association Taiwan.
Chang said the association plans to first target travelers from Southeast Asia by launching more promotional campaigns such as coupon distribution, and apply the experience learned from that relatively small region to the global market.
Like the Japanese, Taiwanese believe soaking in the mineral-rich hot springs brings health benefits, including for the treatment of chronic fatigue, eczema or arthritis.
For more information about the festival, go to http://taiwanhotspring.net (Chinese).