Casino could boost Penghu tourism, says Lu - Sunday 12th of June 2005

Taiwan may reconsider an offshore casino plan as a way to boost the local economy and attract tourists to the Penghu islands, according to the vice president, who joined supporters promoting the development of gambling on offshore locations, away from populated communities.

Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) said that people must change their ideas about the gaming industry as contemporary gambling casinos are high-tech and can become intellectually stimulating entertainment centers.

"When we have a new understanding about the operation of casinos, then people will not oppose the activity. We can consider a casino for one of the outlying islands of Penghu. Then it will be away from the populated communities and reduce its impact on local residents," Lu told the press during her official state visit to Palau one of Taiwan's few diplomatic allies.

She said that Palau attracts more than 90,000 visitors a year, and Taiwan has plenty of natural resources to become a top tourist destination; to this end places like Penghu and Green Island can be further developed.

Lu endorsed plans to attract new investment to Penghu, noting the offshore islands in the Formosa Strait constitute a very beautiful environment.

However harsh northeast monsoon winds blowing for 7 to 8 months of the year batter the region, and the cold weather is not conducive for business.

However, the vice president did reveal that she opposes casinos in principle, but some Penghu people have expressed support for a gambling emporium to improve the local economy.

Therefore, if it is set up, the gambling den should be on sparsely populated offshore islands, away from the main population and minimize the effects of social morals.

"Taiwan is an oceanic nation, but the old government based its administration on China-centric views. It never considered developing our rich marine resources," the vice president added.

She then encouraged Taiwanese people to make visits to Palau, an island nation, and get to know the ocean better and understand the real meaning of nation-building based on the ocean."

Lu pointed out that now is the right time, "China has purposely cultivated anti-Japanese sentiments among its people. Japanese tourists now are afraid to going to China. Other people are not heading to southeast Asia due to the lingering effects of the big tsunami disaster (last year). It is time for Taiwan to seize this opportunity to develop our own tourism industry, to become top destination for international tourists."

Lu and Palauan President Tommy Remengesau jointly presided yesterday over the opening of the Palau Royal Resort Hotel, built with funding from Taiwanese businessmen.

The Royal Resort, a six-story, 158-room hotel, is the newest and one of the largest five-star hotels in Palau, an island nation with rich ocean tourism resources that is a popular destination for tourists, particularly Taiwanese.

Of the more-than 90,000 tourists who visited Palau last year, Taiwan tourists accounted for more than 40,000.

Lu suggested to the Far East Air Transport Corp., which operates a direct Taiwan-Palau route, that it should arrange Friday flights to Palau and Sunday return flights so as to attract more Taiwan tourists.

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