TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- Since its first day of trial operations on Feb. 15, the 2019 Taiwan Lantern Festival (台灣燈會) has attracted over 11 million visitors to southern Taiwan's Pingtung County.
Tonight's closing ceremony will begin at 9 p.m., and in addition to a video retrospective of the festival, there will also be a tribute to all the "heroes" behind the scenes who made it possible. During the closing ceremony, Vice Mayor of Taichung, Bruce Linghu (令狐榮達), will receive a lantern representing the handing over of the festival to the city of Taichung in 2020.
The closing ceremony will include a final drone show, a water dance performance at 9:44 p.m., and a six-minute-long fireworks finale.
(Image from Pingtung County Government)
A soft opening of the Taiwan Lantern Festival started on Feb. 15, while the official opening took place on Feb. 19. Although there were initially concerns on the part of the Pingtung County Government and the Taiwan Tourism Bureau that the long road to the venue in southern Taiwan would result in lower attendance, over 11.87 million have actually attended thus far, exceeding the original estimate of 8 million visitors by over 3 million.
Organizers of the festival said that the number of visitors was based on the number of smartphones registered as operating in the area each day by local telecom operators, reported Liberty Times. In the past, the number of visitors was manually recorded at the entrance or by installing sensors and estimating traffic flow.
However, this year organizers decided to cooperate with telecom companies to detect the number of visitors through their mobile phones. This method can be used to target specific areas and time periods, and even the amount of time spent by tourists in those zones.
In the 16 days since the first day of the festival, four days have broken the one million mark. The days with the most visitors were: Feb. 24, Feb. 28, March 1, and March 2, with 1.08 million, 1.67 million, 1.69 million, 1.82 million attendees, respectively.
Due to promotion by the media, satisfaction of attendees, special features of the lantern areas, concerns about transportation, and volunteers who provided free rides on scooters, the event continued to be a national topic of discussion. Crowds continued to increase in size as the festival wore on, with some returning to the event up to seven times.
Vendors who set up shop at the festival were so busy that their "hands never stopped moving" as business increased at an exponential rate, reported UDN. Nearby Donggang, Xioliuqiu, and the Hengchun Peninsula also felt the affects of the influx in visitors, with hotels booked solid during the 228 Memorial Day holiday.
The Taiwan Tourism Bureau originally predicted that the festival would bring in NT$10 billion (US$323 million) in business opportunities. Huang Chien-chia (黃建嘉) said that although the average amount of spending per visitor has not yet been estimated, he is confident that the final numbers will exceed the tourism bureau's estimate.