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Top Taiwan travel agent pessimistic about tourism plans for Japan island

Yonaguni has shortage of beds, buses, and restaurants, making tourism difficult

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The Taiwan delegation on Japan's Yonaguni Island July 4. (CNA, Legislative Yuan photo)

The Taiwan delegation on Japan's Yonaguni Island July 4. (CNA, Legislative Yuan photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A top travel agent voiced doubts Friday (July 7) about Legislative Speaker You Si-kun’s (游錫堃) plans to promote tourism between Taiwan and the Japanese island of Yonaguni.

A delegation headed by You sailed to the island on July 4, with the speaker advocating regular ferry links between his native county of Yilan and Yonaguni, 111 kilometers or two hours away.

However, Travel Agent Association (TAAT) Chair Hsiao Po-jen (蕭博仁) voiced strong reservations after returning from the trip, Radio Taiwan International (RTI) reported. He said there was a serious problem of scale in Yonaguni which would hamper the development of tourism.

The island only counted 1,600 residents, and lacked basic infrastructure, Hsiao said. The ship which took them to Yonaguni could carry 300 passengers, but there was only one large bus and one medium-sized bus available on the island to move them around.

The only hotel, with beds for 168 visitors, went bankrupt during the COVID-19 pandemic. Travelers would have to turn to bed and breakfast accommodations instead, but they could only house 100 people, while restaurants were also in short supply, according to Hsiao.

The travel agent said local authorities had promised to improve the situation and expand amenities based on demand. However, with insufficient buses, beds, and restaurants, he said he could not take visitors to Yonaguni.

Transportation between Taiwan and the island is also problematic, as a smaller ferry would take twice the time, four hours, to reach Yonaguni, and would not be able to sail at all for half the year due to northeasterly winds, he said. Chartering the larger ship cost NT$2.3 million (US$73,500), which would result in a ticket price of between NT$8,000 and NT$20,000, depending on the number of travelers booking the journey.

Small airplanes could be considered, but as Yilan County did not have an airport, flights would have to originate in Taipei or Hualien. As an international flight, there would be extra regulations and costs to consider, leading to a ticket fare of NT$10,000, Hsiao said, concluding that only government assistance could help launch tourism to Yonaguni.