• Directory of Taiwan

Shilin Night Market in Taipei struggles to find way out of COVID slump

Shilin Night Market sees dwindling visitors as country keeps borders largely closed

A visitor holds a fried chicken cutlet at a night market. (Tourism Bureau photo)

A visitor holds a fried chicken cutlet at a night market. (Tourism Bureau photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Once a bustling tourist attraction of Taipei, the Shilin Night Market is now struggling to keep business alive, after foot traffic levels drastically dropped resulting from coronavirus concerns.

In 2020, Taipei saw the closure of 13,606 businesses, with an additional 1,893 shops closing so far this year. At least 70 businesses at Shilin Night Market have shuttered their doors, PTS reported, citing data from the Taipei City Office of Commerce (TCOOC).

A 60 percent reduction in visitor numbers amid the pandemic and the staggering cost to lease a store, up to NT$200,000 (US$7,092) a month, has contributed to the culinary hub's business woes. Even slashed store rental fees, which were reduced down to NT$60,000, have failed to revive interest amongst potential investors, according to PTC.

TCOOC believes the night market's decline can also be attributed to reports of fruit stalls ripping off customers, tarnishing the marketplace’s reputation. Efforts to rebrand the market have been carried out, the Taipei City Government said, including an overhaul of its facilities and hygiene practices, better price labeling, recalibrated marketing, and the launch of a “micro travel” program involving guided cultural tours.

The Shilin Night Market Development and Promotion Association pointed out that the market is endeavoring to get back on its feet, with the number of empty shopfronts down from 120 last year to 84. Local businesses have come up with a new business strategy that pivots towards attracting young students rather than international tourists, wrote Liberty Times.