Taipei, Aug. 11 (CNA) Taipei and Shanghai city officials met online at a video conference Tuesday where they exchanged views on how to transform the travel and tourism industries in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The meeting was the third of nine industry forums planned as follow-ups to the 2020 Taipei-Shanghai Twin City Forum, an annual event that started in 2010, with each city hosting the event in alternative years.
The Twin City forum was held on July 22 via videoconferencing due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Municipal officials from Shanghai invited to attend the video conference on Tuesday included Li Wenhui, director of the Shanghai Municipal Taiwan Affairs Office, and Cheng Meihong, deputy head of the Shanghai Municipal Administration of Culture and Tourism.
Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je said in his opening remarks that Taipei has been hit hard by the pandemic because many international conferences and exhibitions are held in the city, the capital of Taiwan, and have been suspended since the novel coronavirus was declared a global pandemic earlier this year.
Taipei is home to 1,486 tour agencies, around 40 percent of the total in Taiwan. The city is also the place where most foreign travelers stay when they visit the country, Ko said, noting that 92 percent of foreign visitors to Taiwan will stay in Taipei.
Ko said that the number of hotel rooms increased from 10,000 units to more than 40,000 during the Ma Ying-jeou administration from 2008-2016, which opened the door to visitors from mainland China.
However, "after new hotels were built, Chinese travelers stopped coming," the outspoken mayor said.
Cross-Taiwan Strait relations have cooled since Tsai Ing-wen of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party became president in May 2016.
In the wake of the pandemic, foreign visitor-dependent tourism operators in Taipei have been forced to "either shut down or seek transformation" to maintain their business, Ko said.
The mayor said foreign tourist numbers are not expected to recover for two years. As a result, the city government has proposed several policies, including encouraging hotels to house people in isolation for epidemic quarantine or their family members, Ko said.
The reason for the nine industrial forums following the Taipei-Shanghai Twin City Forum, is to draft a white paper outlining what post-pandemic life in the city will look like, Ko said.
The twin city forum is one of the few formal events where cross-strait interaction still takes place after Beijing ceased dialogue and banned tour groups from visiting Taiwan.
At Tuesday's forum, Li said he was delighted to be invited after the July forum, expressing his hope that interaction and exchange between the two cities will continue to deepen in the future.
At today's forum, Li said he hopes the two cities will jointly work to map out the path of industry transformation in the wake of the global pandemic.
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Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je speaks at the forum／Photo courtesy of CNA