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RURAL TOURISM: A CASE STUDY OF

REGIONAL PLANNING IN TAIWAN

Wen-Ching Hong
Division Chief, Agricultural Bureau,
Nantou County Government
660, Chung Hsing Rd., Nantou City, Taiwan

ABSTRACT

Rural tourism has become a new type of agricultural management in Taiwan which helps
farmers break through current management difficulties for small farms. It has two major
purposes. The first is to provide leisure and recreation for the public. The second is to increase
farmers’ incomes.
This Bulletin discusses rural tourism in Nantou county, located in the central part of
Taiwan. In 1996, Nantou county completed its comprehensive plan for rural tourism. The plan
proposed five major development projects in thirty-five potential tourism areas. Activities include
the traditional Chinese tea ceremony, digging for bamboo shoots, handiwork with bamboo, fruit
picking, etc. Recreational activities (such as visits to waterfalls and enjoying local foods) are
integrated into the rural tourism program.

INTRODUCTION two days off every other week.


Rural tourism has a positive impact on
Over the past ten years, rural tourism agricultural development, farmers’ incomes and
has become a new type of agricultural the standard of living in rural areas.
management in Taiwan. At present, there are However, one important issue is how to reach
two different development models. One is for a consensus among local government, farmers’
government projects that are supported by the associations, and individual farmers on what
central government. Such projects ask for the kind of projects to promote, and how they
opinion of local government and farmer should be funded and operated. Rebuilding
associations, and also consult farmers to see farmers’ faith in agriculture while Taiwan
how willing they are to participate. To apply participates in the World Trade Organization
for financial support, a project has to follow (WTO) is an urgent task right now. We
the regulations governing rural tourism. The believe that a combination of rural tourism
other model is a commercial project supported and leisure farms provides a good opportunity
by a company’s own budget. This usually for farmers to meet this challenge.
takes the form of what is called a leisure The implementation of rural tourism
farm. Although the number of leisure farms should use leisure as a way of achieving
in Taiwan is increasing, most of them belong agriculture development. Agriculture is the
to commercial companies. An additional 31 first aspect to be considered. This is then
leisure farms have been planned as integrated with natural scenery, other tourist
government projects, but less than half are in attractions and local culture. Rural tourism
operation right now. ensures benefits for farmers, but does not
Rural tourism has become an essential focus only on nature and the environment. It
part of agricultural development, especially is also customer-oriented, and tries to provide
now that Taiwan adopted in 1998 a policy of an excellent service for visitors.

Keywords: Development plan, environmental impact, exhibitions, leisure farms, leisure programs,
Nantou county, rural tourism
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PLANNING FOR RURAL TOURISM Their plan proposed five major
development concepts (Table 1) and 35
Each year, the central government potential development areas. All areas were
allocates funds for counties that are willing to divided into three classes. (i.e., A, B, or C
promote the development of rural tourism. according to their priority). Thirteen areas
Each county will then consider the planning were assigned to class A. In addition, Nantou
applications based upon the particular County is planning to develop rural tourism in
agricultural specialities of that county, and the four towns and their surrounding areas. Two
preferences of local farmers’ associations. of these towns, Luku and Hsinyi, already have
Budget allocations are from the top-down. a range of tourism activities. Around Luku,
The content of proposed projects is from the attractions include a tour of tea-growing areas,
bottom-up. However, some local farmers’ visits to cultural and historic sites, and
associations also propose a corresponding bamboo and edible wild vegetables (Fig. 2).
budget to enhance their involvement in Around Hsinyi, tourists are drawn to plum
planning rural tourism. orchards, vineyards, vegetable and flower
The planning process consists of: first, farms and tea plantations (Fig. 3). Both
discussion of aims; then the analysis of towns are now improving their tourist
relevant laws and regulations; thirdly, the facilities, including walking trails through
evaluation of the potential of different areas beautiful scenery (Figs. 4, 5).
and activities for agricultural tourism; fourthly, The famous agricultural products of Luku
the selection of important categories and areas are tea and bamboo shoots. Rural villages
for detailed programs; fifthly, detailed near the town are full of characteristic old
development plans for different zones, and buildings, and there are many kinds of
finally, an analysis of the economic returns traditional handicrafts. Meanwhile, farmers
and other benefits. The whole planning have been using their farmers’ associations to
procedure is shown in Fig. 1. organize leisure activities such as tours of tea
Nantou county, located in the central or bamboo growing areas, and banquets with
part of Taiwan, will be used as a case study tea and music. Tourists taking part in these
in this Bulletin. Nantou is a typical tours are able to experience various
agricultural county with very little industry. agricultural practices such as drying tea, tea
Its resources include high-quality agricultural ceremony, digging bamboo shoots, and
products, diverse landscapes and excellent bamboo handicrafts. The farmers’ associations
water. Furthermore, seasonal changes add to also arrange farm stays for visitors.
the tourism potential of Nantou county. There Hsinyi is well located on the new cross-
are flowers and new leaves in spring, colorful island highway from the west to the east
maples in autumn, and snow in winter. coast, and lies close to Jade Mountain, the
The total area of Nantou county is about highest mountain in Taiwan. The local
401,600 ha, of which about 134,500 ha are culture of the (pre-Chinese) mountain* people,
used for agricultural production. More than and spectacular local waterfalls are also major
half the total population is involved in tourist attractions. As in Luku, the local
agriculture, including the production of rice, farmers’ association has organized a number
betelnut, tea, tobacco, sugarcane, vegetables, of tourist activities centred around agricultural
fruits and flowers. In 1996, Nantou county products such as Jade Mountain tea, plums,
completed a comprehensive plan for rural grapes, and bitter tea oil. Leisure programs
tourism. This plan integrated many factors, cover a tour of plum production areas,
including agricultural specialties, rural villages, including plum blossom in the spring, and a
and the natural environment. The planning display of dancing and music by mountain
project for the county was executed by people. Natural resources (such as forest,
professional researchers who spent one year on waterfalls and hot springs), add to the
this task. enjoyment of tourists who come to the area.

* Mountain people: People related to the Malays, living in Taiwan since ancient times,
before the arrival of the Chinese. (Ed.).

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Aims of planning

* Origin of proposal
* Principal goals of plan

Resource analysis Related laws and regulations

* Natural environment
* Cultural environment
* Industrial environment
* Recreational environment

Analysis of development of potential

* Agricultural management
* Agricultural characteristics
* Farmers' willingness to participate
* Estimated no. of visitors

Development of rural tourism

* Issues of development
* Important categories (items)
* Primary regions for development

Managing organization, Detailed development planning


Regulations
* Definition of projects
* Planning facilities
* Planning management
* Planning for environmental management
* Planning of transportation system
* Planning for introduction of visitors

Cost-benefit analysis Executive planning by stage, by zone Source of funds

Conclusion

Fig. 1. Planning procedure for rural tourism

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Table 1

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Table 1

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Table 2. Activities and facilities in different zones

Zone Activity Facilities

Areas for picking wild vegetables, Picking wild vegetables Explanations and maps on
sightseeing signboards, paths, restrooms

Areas to experience agricultural life Traditional agricultural Explanations and maps on


and culture of mountain people activities, tours, signboards, paths, restrooms

Trout fishing Ecology of trout, fishing, Parking area,


eating of cooked trout landscape beautification

Exhibition of agricultural products Selling agricultural Service center for sellng


products, traditional agricultural products and
culture of traditional crafts
mountain people

Meals made from local specialties Tasting and knowing Noticeboards, parking area,
how to cook with service center, landscape
local special ingredients beautification

Farmstays Staying with local Noticeboards, parking area,


people landscape beautification,
improvement of
accommodation facilities

Waterfall areas Sight-seeing at water- Noticeboards, landscape


falls, often with butterflies beautification, parking areas

Cultural area of mountain people Exhibition of culture, Explanations and maps on


(Buson tribe) dancing, traditional signboards, exhibition center,
festivals museum, festivals,
parking areas

Natural landscape area Climbing, hiking Paths, noticeboards to signal


route and warn of any
dangers

Heritage area Heritage interpretation, Explanations and maps on


telling of folk stories signboards, setting out of
tourist route

PLANNING OF RURAL TOURISM position and design of a signboard, we must


consider its educational function. Warning
While there are some geographic and signs where caution is needed must be set up,
other differences between Luku and Hsinyi, to ensure visitors’ safety.
the planning of rural tourism in each area
was very similar. Establishing Exhibition Places

Putting up Signboards Exhibitions can be divided into dynamic


displays and static displays. Some general
Signboards are necessary to show tourists items suitable for display are characteristic
what attractions are present and how to reach agricultural products, folk heritage, and folk
them. They are also needed to provide an crafts. The type of display is dependent upon
explanation at the site. When deciding the the budget and land available.

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0 1 2 3 km

Development area for farming activities

Development area for tea tours and farmstay

Development areas for Cultural and


Historical Activities

Development area for bamboo


and edible wild vegetables

Fig. 2. Areas with development priority in Luku

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0 2 4 6 km

Recuperative farm area

Areas of plum orchard

Areas of grape orchard

Areas of vegetable and flower garden

Main development Recuperative Area of plum Areas of grape Areas of vegetable Areas of tea
areas farm area orchard orchard and flower garden plantation

Cultural activities Enjoying the Picking grapes Experience of Picking tea


Characteristics of mountain people sight of flowers, county life
tasting plums

Subdivision 1. Farm activities 1. Sight-seeing 1. Farm activities 1. Tea plantation


2. Farmstay 2. Farmstay activities
2. Hiking
3. Waterfalls 3. Farm 3. Culture of 2. Tea ceremony
4. Culture of experience mountain
people 3. Farmstay
mountain
Areas of tea plantation (Bunon) people
5. Historical
activities

Fig. 3. Areas in Shinyi given priority in development

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0 0.2 0.5 km

Carpark

Carpark
Shed

Ancient tea bush


Dong

Carpark
Deck for
D in g

Farmstay Catering sight-seeing


T r a il

Carpark Introducing the


ceremony and
making of the
ChiLin Trail

Introducing the
history of DongDing
Hill and healthy
living with
tea-making

Fig. 4. Proposed tourist route system for Luku Township

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Cultural area of mountain

Farmstays

Nature study area

Historic area

Nature study area


Farming activity area

Waterfall area

Frmstays

0 2 4 6 8 10 km

Fig. 5. Detailed zoning of rural tourism in Shinyi Township

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Brochures and wild celery. With its mild weather
(annual average temperatures are 23°C), Luku
A good brochure for tourists provides township offers recreational opportunities all
information about different tourist facilities, year round. Shinyi is located in the central
including farm inns, restaurants and their mountain range, and its peak tourist season is
prices. during the summer.
As in most of Taiwan’s agricultural
Performances and Competitions communities, the farmers’ association is the
most important organization, both in Luku and
Performances and competitions can Shinyi. In each town, the farmers' association
reinforce rural culture as well as providing an was used as the executive organization for
interesting event for visitors. Some examples developing and promoting rural tourism.
are competitions to produce the best-quality Tourism farms with accommodation are
tea or plums, the traditional Chinese tea becoming common in both areas.
ceremony, tea parties with music, and plum The reasons why these two townships
banquets. have been so active in the development of
rural tourism are as follows:
Souvenirs: • Both have a well-organized farmers’
association, with a good financial
Clothes or hats with a local logo can be foundation and full support from farmers.
a good souvenir for rural tourists. Local • Both have natural resources which attract
handicrafts are also a valid tool of promotion, tourists from the city, including forested
and earn extra income for local people. mountains, bamboo forest, waterfalls, hiking
trails, and cultural monuments. They are
Promoting Recreational Routes quite different from other recreational areas,
and provide a diversity of recreational
A tourist route which passes tourist experiences.
farms and other attractions should be • Farmers’ associations choose high-profit
designated for visitors. Railroad stations, bus items and integrate supporting programs.
stations, bus stops and shopping areas can be For instance, local tea markets and
used for the promotion of rural tourism, with exhibitions of tea, community celebrations,
posters and photographs, in order to attract religious ceremonies, and farmers’ fairs for
visitors. promoting products are used as part of the
The planning of rural tourism in Luku rural tourism program.
and Hsinyi covers natural and cultural • There are well-organized structures for
resources, land use, willingness of farmers to administering rural tourism (Fig. 6). Each
participate, potential number of visitors and township has its own operating committee
adjacent recreational spots. After analyzing to integrate all activities related to rural
the above items, planning budgets were tourism (Fig. 7). The committee is divided
assigned for different areas and periods of into different section for restaurants,
time. An environmental impact assessment farmstays etc. These committees help
was also carried out. Both townships farmers plan and operate efficient tourism
qualified for leisure agriculture development by farms.
the central government. The first and second
development stages have been completed in ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT OF
both townships. Because of the positive RURAL TOURISM
response from local farmers, tourism not only
increased the profitability of agriculture, but As in most countries, rural tourism in
has also provided the general public with new Taiwan is varied, reflecting diverse local
recreational outlets. resources and customs. Each type of leisure
In Luku, tea is the major crop and agriculture has a different impact on the
occupies the largest area of agricultural land. environment.
Other important crops include bamboo shoots

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Central government

Farmers' association

Management committee for rural tourism


Committee for developing tours of tea plantations and farmstays

Committee for farming activities


Committee for developing bamboo and edible wild vegetables

Fig. 6. Main organizations involved in management of rural tourism

Sightseeing Farms Citizen Farms

Sightseeing farms emphasize participation In this type of farm, city dwellers share
in the agricultural production experience and a small plot of land and cultivate it during
recreational activities. There is a weekends and holidays. It allows urban
comparatively sight impact on the environment. people to share in farming activities and enjoy
However, it is important that farmers practice the country landscape. Citizen farms should
low-pollution production methods such as follow production methods which protect the
organic farming, in order to guarantee the environment.
safety of visitors.

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Administrative management Financial management

Accounting

Personnel

Promotion Planning of activities

Services for visitor

Agricultural production

Cultural displays etc.

Environmental Management Sanitation

Resource protection and


maintenance of facilities
Construction and development

Planning section Executive section Monitoring section

Fig. 7. Divisions of Committee for Rural Tourism (Township level)

Educational Farms including warning signs where appropriate,


should receive careful attention. In order to
Agricultural production, farming life, and preserve the beauty of the landscape,
the experience of rural culture are key points ecological and related aspects should be
in educational farms. Such farms have little considered when developing physical facilities
impact on the environment. However, they or cutting forest.
should pay attention to the safety of Rural tourism does not encourage
recreational facilities. development on a large scale. On leisure
farms where tourists share agricultural work, it
Health Farms is important for managers to use chemical
pesticides and fertilizers carefully. A better
Health farms are where city dwellers way would be to implement organic
stay to recover their health, often after an agriculture. As to the disposal of sewage and
illness or operation. The main attractions are other wastes, managers should follow the
the natural landscape and farm accommo- regulations of environment protection, to avoid
dation. The safety aspect of sight-seeing, environmental pollution caused by too many

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visitors. The implementation period is usually five
In order to manage rural tourism years. The government also provides low-
efficiently, the government gathers opinions interest loans for farmers develop tourism
from farmers’ associations and other farms, provided they can meet all the
organizations. When plans are submitted, the regulations.
government checks each project item by item.
Items checked include land ownership, tourism CONCLUSION
potential, water and soil conservation,
environmental protection, construction permits, Rural tourism is becoming popular in
and the impact on agriculture and forestry. Taiwan among both farmers and visitors. It
During the process of implementation, the is becoming a new type of agricultural
government holds several public meetings to management for farmers. In view of the
explain the program to farmers, and make impact on farm incomes from international
sure that farmers’ associations, and farmers free trade, it is important to help farmers
follow the necessary regulations. increase the profitability of their farms, as
These regulations include safety well as improving the quality of rural life.
precautions, pollution control, sanitation, Looking at the effect of rural tourism in
hygiene for cooked meals and processed Nantou county, not only has there been a
foods, and recreational quality. Through the development of tourist farms around Luku and
successful implementation of rural tourism, the Shinyi, but also local communities have been
environment for producing and selling will be revitalized. The potential of rural tourism to
improved. attract visitors is strong, especially now that
Once the tourist project has received all Taiwan is implementing a policy of two days
its legally required permits, the local off every other week. In future, the 35
government applies for funds from the central recreational spots of Nantou county will be
government to cover the cost of development. connected into a complete network which will
Sometimes farmers’ associations propose a integrate farmers, rural villages, and
corresponding budget from their own funds. agriculture.

DISCUSSION

Mr. Hong was asked how priorities were decided when development areas are given a
priority (A, B or C). On what basis is this decided? Is it the local resources which are the
deciding factor, or the profitability, or is there some other factor? Mr. Hong replied that there
are three considerations: the local resources (including the landscape, special products and the
transport network); farmers’ willingness to participate; and the extent of support from local
farmers’ associations.

Several participants were interested in the professional researchers who had carried out the
task of preparing the county’s rural tourism plan. One participant asked whether they acted as
consultants, to give advice to local planners, or whether they were hired to do the whole planning
project. Mr. Hong replied that they were hired on an annual contract which was funded by the
central government.

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