For many years, most of Taiwan’s leisure farms have turned themselves organic, utilizing artificial weeding, mosquito control, to coexist with nature.
Post-epidemic is Taiwan’s Leisure Farms’ Best Opportunity
On the morning of 9 th May 2020, many Malaysian readers of The Star, a local English newspaper with the largest circulation, saw a full-page article introducing Taiwan’s Yilan, titled “Yilan, the land of abundance”.
The article describes in detail the richness and diversity of Yilan’s farms, from farm family relations, environmental ecology, Yilan’s water quality, to the trend of leisure farms and farm kitchens.
After this article was published, the news soon spread to the Taiwan Leisure Farm circle and sparked discussions. It was mainly due to the worrying global epidemic situation at that time; the cumulative total of diagnosed COVID-19 cases reached more than 39 million people that day, and the death toll exceeded 270,000.
At the same time, however, Taiwan was approaching 27 consecutive days of no local COVID-19 cases. Professional baseball matches were officially opened the night before to the baseball fans, and with such publicity from foreign media about leisure farm tourism in Taiwan, it is a polar contrast to the tense global epidemic.
This article greatly inspired Taiwan’s leisure farming industry. For many years, most of Taiwan’s leisure farms have turned themselves organic, utilizing artificial weeding, mosquito control, to coexist with nature. They also diligently develop high quality blue dye, longan, tea seed oil, ayu (fish species), Chinese sturgeon, fresh farm milk, and other products, and even swiftly and actively controlling the number of tourists early in the spread of the epidemic. This long-term effort has been carefully observed, especially by the article’s writer, a titled person of “Justice of the Peace” and Dato’ Sri called Leesan. He is Lee Ee Hoe, executive chairman of Malaysia’s number one brand in tour companies—Apple Vacations.
Fifteen years ago, Leesan was deeply moved when he first encountered Taiwan’s leisure farms. He said that many destinations in the world advertise agricultural tourism, but once you truly experience it, you will find that they are essentially resorts, and agriculture is just a packaging. “But Taiwan’s leisure farms are different! The foundation of Taiwan’s leisure farms is agriculture, and almost all of them are managed by farmers. They are very gracious and understand the land, giving people a strong feeling of nostalgia and humanity.” Leesan said, “I have traveled to more than 130 countries, yet, in agriculture-dominant countries like
Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and even Costa Rica, never have I found such a fundamental but impactful attraction. Over the years, many countries have sent people to Taiwan to learn how to run leisure farms, but there has never been a successful case as no one could imitate its agricultural foundation and human touch.”
Because he was deeply moved, Leesan, who initially specializes only in high-end Japanese tour groups, began to plan itineraries to leisure farms in Taiwan, and established the largest “Taiwan tours selling group” in Southeast Asia, diligently promoting Taiwan’s travel itineraries. “The same year that I got so impressed, the Taiwanese farms received more than 100 foreign tourists, but last year it reached 700,000 passengers a year, of which Malaysia had contributed at least 80,000 visitors a year.”
“The situation of the COVID-19 epidemic is completely different from SARS.” At that time, SARS mainly affected China, Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan. It had clear symptoms such as fever and was easily controlled. Therefore, the world could return to normal immediately after SARS. Tourism also rebounded immediately with a boom. But this time, the new coronavirus is asymptomatic; even if the epidemic spreads slightly slower, people are more cautious and guarded. More importantly, it does not only affect the tourism sector but also pauses the normal routine of the whole world, which resulted in bankruptcy and unemployment. “Everyone has no money! The people have no money, and the government has no money too!”
It can be predicted that the recovery of the global tourism landscape after this epidemic will be cautious and slow.”Therefore, in this process, the focus is not on ‘fighting for customers’, but on properly maintaining safety and hygiene, and building confidence and a good reputation.”
“This epidemic has allowed the world to see Taiwan’s ability.” At present, the world has confidence in Taiwan’s medical treatment and epidemic prevention.”This is a perfect opportunity for Taiwan’s leisure farms. It is recommended that in addition to general tour groups and backpackers, the farms should take this opportunity to start expanding horizons by promoting their farms for hosting international incentive travel and conference holidays, which are normally held in hotels or resorts. This will allow the humanity and ecological beauty of leisure farms to establish a reputation among enterprises.”
Right now, many farms have started to be taken over by the second generation. Leesan also reminded that “the farms must never forget the fundamentals of farming!” When the leisure farms lose their farming roots, when the nostalgic feeling is gone, when no chickens and pigs are running around, when the farm is just left with pretty concrete buildings, “What difference does it have then, compared to other resorts? Can it compete against resorts in other countries?” Only when the farm continues to cultivate the land and produce crops, keeping a rich and natural Good Place, delicious Good Food, interesting Good Fun, and the continued portrayal of a Good Friend, to bring everyone a Good Time; that, is the most unique value of Taiwan leisure farms.
Photo source: ‘Rural Kitchen Discovery Journey’ published by Apple House Publishing, Taiwan Leisure Farms Development Association
Published in Taiwan COMMONWEALTH MAGAZINE, No.700 17 June 2020