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Tourist Factories Provide New Visitor Attractions in Taiwan

Apr 19, 2011 | By CENS

Although not a brand-new concept, the organizing of factory tours has become one of the hottest trends among traditional Taiwanese manufacturers in recent years. This allows the manufacturers to reposition themselves at a higher level, bring new life to their old plants, and generate more profits.

The government recognizes the potential of this new trend, and the Central Region Office of the Industrial Development Bureau under the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) initiated a Tourism Factory Project in 2003. The Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) has been commissioned to evaluate applications for the operating of tourist factories, covering such factors as factory theme, factory spacial planning, guided tours, hand's-on “experience” facilities, corporate image, promotional material design, and factory operation models. Applicants found to be qualified are licensed to operate tourist factories, and are eligible for subsidies from the government to help prepare for this new kind of operation.

With assistance from ITRI engineers, over 86 old plants from a variety of traditional industries throughout Taiwan have been remodeled into tourist factories, and have generated concrete benefits for their operators. According to statistics compiled by the MOEA's Central Region Office, the total number of visitors to the plants reached 3.5 million in 2010, 700,000 more than in 2009, helping the operators earn additional revenues in the amount of NT$1.4 billion, a 40% increase over the previous year.

The tourist factory boom is reflected in a growing number of applications to enter the business. The Central Region Office reports that 36 applications for remodeling subsidies have been received so far this year, nine more than in 2010, and expects the number of visitors to the tourist factories to grow to 4 million this year.

To maintain the quality of tourist factories, the MOEA will also begin regulating licensed tourist factory operators this year and will require them to submit to a re-evaluation process every three years. Six tourist factories which were licensed in 2008 are subject to re-evaluation this year.

Some tourist factories are notable for their contributions to the development of local tourism, company transformation, and cultural education.

E Tai Sanitary Ware Tourist Factory
One of these is the E Tai Sanitary Ware Tourist Factory operated by the E Tai Enterprise Co. in Keelung City, northern Taiwan. This was the first tourist factory of its kind in Taiwan, and has emerged as one of the most popular among tourists.

A wide spectrum of bath products and tourist souvenirs, LOHAS (Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability) bathroom products, own-brand products, and home spa and sauna equipment are exhibited and sold in the factory. Members of the general public as well as professional buyers can tour the factory, see the latest in bathroom ware, and even try out the products on-site. This marketing technique has helped E Tai to build up its profile and burnish its image more than ever.

To enhance the factory's recreational and educational attractions, last year the operator added a “1560 Keelung Story Hall,” with assistance from the Keelung City Cultural Affairs Bureau.

The interior design of the Story Hall was accomplished with the help of the old Keelung Post Office, which is an old-style building that was constructed in downtown Keelung during the Japanese colonial period (1895-1945) and is now a tourist attraction, with 26 Virginia-style walls used at backdrops, arranged in chronological order, to illustrate 26 main historical events in the evolution of Keelung.

King Car Spirit Castle
The King Car Food Industrial Co., one of Taiwan's best-known beverage suppliers, turned its distillery in Taiwan's northeastern county of Yilan into the King Car Spirit Castle to highlight its entry into the whisky market and its achievements in the industry.

The King Car Spirit Castle is the first whisky distillery in Taiwan; this is significant for the island's liquor industry, since almost all whisky sold in Taiwan is imported and very little is produced domestically. To produce world-caliber whisky, King Car imports roasted barley from Scotland and then handles the whole manufacturing process from grinding and fermenting to distilling, maturing, and formulating by itself.

These efforts have paid off; the distillery's “Kavalan Whisky” won silver medals in 2009 at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition and the International Wine and Spirit Competition and received rave reviews in the West, putting Taiwan's name on the global whisky map and in the Malt Whisky Yearbook 2010. MOEA officials report that the tourist distillery drew over 1.3 million visitors and buyers in 2010, generating revenues of more than NT$100 million. These two figures put the distillery on top of Taiwan's licensed tourist factory list for the year.

I-Mei Foods Production, Ecological and Lifestyle Park
The I-Mei Foods Production, Ecological and Lifestyle Park, located in northern Taiwan's Taoyuan County, was comparable with the King Car Spirit Castle in number of visitors in 2010; it also attracted over 1 million visitors and contributed greatly to I-Mei Foods, which was founded in 1934 and is one of the oldest food manufacturers on the island.

Tourists visiting the park can buy the “I-Mei Beauty of National Palace Museum Gift Pack,” with eye-catching packaging featuring artworks from the National Palace Museum and contents that include traditional Taiwanese snacks. These special gift packs give foreign tourists an easy way to experience the beauty of the National Palace Museum's artifacts along with Taiwanese dietary traditions.

Chang Lien Cheng Saxophone Museum
The Chang Lien Cheng Saxophone Museum, operated by the Lien Cheng Saxophone Co., a 60-year-old manufacturer of saxophones in central Taiwan's Taichung City, is another important tourist factory that illustrates the evolution of the saxophone industry on the island.

Aided by ITRI engineers, Chang Lien Cheng uses improved electroplating techniques to produce exquisite world-caliber saxophones, which are displayed at the museum and are very popular with buyers. Visitors also enjoy the museum's interior design and the lifestyle that it reflects. Although saxophone manufacturing is one of the oldest industrial activities in central Taiwan, few people today would associate the product with the place, for this traditional industry has been shrinking for decades. Now, ITRI stresses, the opening of the museum will arouse more concern about the industry and re-establish Taiwan's profile in the global saxophone market.

MOEA Central Region Office officials note that the Arwin Charisma Museum Tourist Factory (cosmetics), Puhu Footwear Tourist Factory (shoes), White Wood House Gallery (cakes), Music 4 Fun (musical instruments), and other tourist factories have also earned a high reputation among local and foreign visitors for their educational, entertainment, and cultural features as well as their business success.


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