Belgium (Brussels Morning Newspaper), From chips to tourism – Taiwan has travelled a very long way in the past few years and it now has its sights set on attracting more visitors from Europe.

The country, recently in the news for its presidential elections, may not yet be a traditional destination for many Europeans but it still has plenty to offer.

And the small island nation has already proved to be one of the most popular attractions at this year’s big annual holiday trade show in Brussels.

The four-day show (Salon des Vacances/Vakantiesalon), at Brussels Expo, opened on Thursday and runs until Sunday (3 February) and aims to showcase travel destinations both in Europe and further afield, including in Asia.

Helping launch the Taiwan stand this year was Dr Roy Chun Lee, the country’s new ambassador to the EU and Belgium.

He told this website his country was already proving a bit hit with Europeans, with the number of visitors from Europe growing at a faster rate than any other region in the world.

Other Asian countries, like Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Malaysia (along with Americans) still account for most overseas visitors to Taiwan, he said.

But he said the number of people visiting from Europe was growing fast and currently account for about 15 per cent of all tourists to Taiwan.

“Ours is a small island, not much different in size to Belgium but there are some 153 mountain peaks in Taiwan which are above 3,000 metres which makes it something of a  paradise for mountain climbers,” the ambassador, in his first overseas posting, said.

He said the country, in the past, had probably been best known for its micro-chip (semi-conductor) industry and, while this is still flourishing, tourism was now also big business in Taiwan.

To many, Taiwan is synonymous with microchips and manufacturing; an Asian economic powerhouse. But there’s another Taiwan to discover: the Taiwan of soaring mountains, verdant valleys, crystal waters, dazzling culture, delicious cuisine, and amazing holidays to suit every taste and budget.

For many, Taiwan is already among the world’s best holiday destinations.

One of the features of this year’s Taiwan presence at the holiday show is to promote the “superb” coastal activities it also offers including diving on an island just off the mainland which is ranked as one of the top ten in the world.

This year’s Taiwan booth invites visitors to dive into the underwater world of the seas around Taiwan. Reflecting the country’s natural coastal beauty, the booth is adorned with elements reminiscent of a calm sea floor – complete with representations of colourful coral reefs and marine life. 

This, said the ambassador, illustrates the rich diversity of what Taiwan offers as a holiday destination.

“It is a compact island so travelling around Taiwan is also very easy,” he said.

As he spoke, large queues formed at the Taiwan stand as visitors to the trade fair waited to be served some of the tasty traditional Taiwanese culinary dishes.

This year visitors to the stand will be treated to a variety of cultural treats including delicious Taiwanese snacks and street food, such as bubble tea, steamer baskets and soup dumplings. All are being prepared and distributed on-site for the course of the show. There is also a lot to keep people entertained including a display of balloon art and a performance of traditional Taiwanese songs by a group of students.

In addition,  and with the Lunar New Year fast approaching, students from the Taiwan Mandarin Learning Centre joined in the festivities by performing calligraphy.

“Food is another great reason to visit Taiwan,” said the ambassador,  who visited the stand personally, adding, “The cuisine is like a mini-China in terms of what it offers.”

While the chip industry has made Taiwan famous he believes its high-profile presence at an event such as the trade show in Brussels this week will further raise awareness of its potential as a travel destination.

“The people in Taiwan are another great reason to visit as they are very friendly and very welcoming,” he noted.

A source at the Representative Office to the EU and Belgium said, “There are lots of compelling reasons to visit. We hope the promotion at this event will help European travellers better understand the Taiwanese culture and increase interest in visiting the country in the future.

The message is: Make sure you take time to enjoy these delights from Ilha Formosa – the beautiful island – and find out why Taiwan should be top of the list for your next vacation.

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