News roundup: Cats transform Taiwan’s Houtong into a tourist magnet, plus more tourism news

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For PropertyGuru’s tourism news roundup, feline residents helped rejuvenate a Taiwan village by turning it into a tourist magnet. In other stories, the Philippines lags behind its Southeast Asian neighbors when it comes to developing smart tourism, and Cambodia holds its “When Shaolin Meets Bokator at Angkor,” which was more than a spectacular event but a symbol of well-planned Cambodian tourism and diplomatic strategies aimed at fostering deeper ties with China.

Cat lovers bring tourism boost to Taiwan village, as feline residents revive once-flourishing mining town

Houtong, in Ruifang – west of the capital Taipei – was originally called “monkey cave.” During the 20th century, the area led Taiwan’s coal production – with 220,000 tons clawed from the earth each year. It spurred a population boom peaking at around 6,000.

But young residents emigrated as the industry faded in the 1990s, leaving fewer than 100 villagers as the job market dried up.

That was until 2008, when a local resident and photographer – Peggy Chien – began to take in abandoned cats. Her efforts, showcased on Flickr, won over cat lovers across the island. HKFP reports that the influx of more furry friends helped rejuvenate the declining village.

Today, the village is a tourist magnet, and home to cat-themed cafes, shops peddling feline fare, crumbling relics of the village’s industrial past, and places to relax.

Philippines lags Southeast Asian neighbors in smart tourism index

The Philippines lags behind some of its Southeast Asian neighbors in terms of readiness in developing smart tourism ecosystems, hampered by high internet costs and accessibility issues in rural areas, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said in BusinessWorld.

In a report entitled “Smart Tourism Ecosystem Development Readiness in Southeast Asia,” the Philippines received an average readiness score of 56. A score of 100 indicates a country’s ability to adopt an enabling environment for smart tourism.

Among six Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members in the index, the Philippines ranked fourth, behind Thailand (72), Vietnam (67) and Indonesia (66).

The Philippines was ahead of Laos (53) and Cambodia (50).

“Despite national tourism policies prioritizing digitalization backed by strong tourist and industry demand, smart tourism ecosystem development in Southeast Asia is constrained by insufficient finance and limited digital skills, urban-rural digital divides, and an evolving legal and digital policy environment,” the ADB said in the report.

Shaolin-Bokator event more than a tourism draw card, ‘cultural diplomacy breakthrough’

A senior government leader has described the Kingdom’s latest joint tourism venture as more than a spectacular event, but a symbol of well-planned Cambodian tourism and diplomatic strategies aimed at fostering deeper ties with China.

As he addressed the 24th April grand opening of the “When Shaolin Meets Bokator at Angkor”, Minister of Tourism Sok Soken explained that the occasion was more than a display of cultural heritage; it was a strategic move reinforcing the “Cambodia-China People-to-People Exchange Year 2024”.

Held against the backdrop of the iconic Bayon Temple in Siem Reap province’s Angkor Archaeological Park, the event was chaired by the minister and attended by Sun Shougang, vice-governor of China’s Henan province, and Yun Linne, deputy governor of Siem Reap province, according to the Phnom Penh Post.

During his speech, Soken emphasised the profound cultural, traditional, and diplomatic relations shared between Cambodia and China, highlighting that such cultural exchanges are pivotal to the ongoing “Belt and Road Initiative” and the strengthening of socio-economic bonds between the two nations.

The Property Report editors wrote this article. For more information, email: [email protected].