Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Big Brother Inc. Taiwan's Tourism Bureau... Working For You?


Cycling in Taiwan is just one of the many portals Taiwan's government is using to promote recreational cycling and bicycle tourism in Taiwan. Although this site was posted a few years ago (2008), it is still relevant and many riders may still find some of the information valuable.

The contents of the site detail five short bike routes and it provides information on transportation, rentals, tourist sites, local fare and route descriptions--things casual riders might appreciate.

This may not be ideal for many of Taiwan's recreational riders who have pushed local cycling culture and expectations far beyond the leisurely routes the Tourism Bureau has listed, but for occasional day trippers and families who decide to simply go for a ride without investing in the cycling lifestyle, this could be very helpful.


On the other side of the coin this site raises some difficult questions regarding the links between the role of government, the interests of private enterprise, and the best interests of the citizen consumer.

Aside from the expected information regarding transportation and tourism services provided by the government, this government run site also uses this space to promote selected businesses. A visitor is directed to links and information for a few select private businesses, hotels and bicycle resources.

" Full House
Located at the Dehua Village Wharf, this 10-room resort hotel commands an unobstructed view of Sun Moon Lake.

The log-cabin style hotel is decorated with oil paintings by the owner. High-ceilinged hallways, soft light, soothing music, and finely crafted wood furniture complete the feeling of simple elegance at this scenic retreat."

In the interest of fairness and transparency, the question should be asked how these businesses, amid many others, were able to be chosen for government promotion and what, if any type of benefits or services, were exchanged quid pro quo.

For almost each route the Taiwan Tourism Bureau advertises for a Giant retailer. Are there any other bicycle shops or rental facilities in the area? How might I get a business listed by the Taiwan Tourism Bureau? How are these routes being planned and selected for promotion? If I owned a business in the area would they promote me?

I have detailed my understanding of the problem HERE.

The need for clarity is a significant point of concern as the chairman of Giant, King Liu, is also a special advisor to President Ma Ying-jiu regarding bicycle infrastructure projects. Although it is not uncommon for governments and private enterprise to cooperate, this relationship begs for the government to embrace greater transparency in its planning and coordination of cycling routes as King Liu's primary responsibility is to the shareholders of Giant Manufacturing Co. Ltd. and not necessarily to the interests of the private citizen.



If we look at other major bicycle projects like Seattle's Burke Gilman Trail, which is maintained by the Seattle Dept. of Parks and Recreation, or in Oregon, the Portland Bureau of Transportation bike trail system, the scope remains squarely on public services and citizen safety rather than providing advertising space for private enterprise.

Although the government might mean well, there are serious ethnical considerations that must be addressed when government and enterprise decide to ride tandem.

2 comments:

  1. I've worked on some of the Tourism Bureau guides (not just cycling) and there is no direction or orders to include one business and not another. An area is suggested, somebody is sent there and most if not all options are looked at in choosing what to include. The tourism bureau essentially works with what the reporter/researcher submits and I can tell you firsthand that there are no bribes/incentives etc taking place during the research phase.

    If you look on the Bali page in the link above, you'll also see 2 non-Giant rental stores mentioned. Like it or not, the only bike full service center in Bali is Giant, the others being basic rental only. Giant are the world's largest bike company so it's only to be expected that they dominate the market in their home country. If you don't like that (and seeing as they make excellent bikes there's no reason to), then you'd be better served complaining to the other manufacturers and asking them why they don't open service centers.

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  2. I think the issue is that a service that is funded by the taxpayer (taxpayers including other area businesses) is being used to promote any business in a competitive market. There are surely other hotels in the area.

    I think Giant may possibly enjoy an unfair advantage as the world's largest producer, retailer, service provider and government advisor. At what point will their dominance and size combined with influence and domestic status, and entry into the retail sphere, create an environment where anti-trust legislation may be called into effect?

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